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KCS, KCHD act on flu threat

A probable case of H1N1 Influenza A virus, commonly called Swine Flu, has resulted in the closure of West Valley Middle School through Friday, May 8.

According to Knox County Schools media advisor Russ Oaks, KCS takes its cue on school closure from Knox County Health Department.

“We work hand-and-glove with the Health Department with all issues of this nature. They provide guidance and we act upon it,” Oaks said.

“The Health Department recommended to [KCS Superinten-dent John McIntyre] that, as a precaution, West Valley Middle School would be closed,” he added.

School custodians were dispatched Monday, May 4, to sanitize West Valley Middle School in order to eradicate any vestiges of the virus before students return to school Monday, May 11.

KCHD follows guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control on school closure.

According to KCHD spokesperson Ranee Randby, many parents are concerned that with several sports teams in the tournament season now, their children may have come into contact with children from another school that has been closed due to probable H1N1 cases.

Knox County Public Health officer Martha Buchanan said, “[If any school] has a probable case, we will take the actions directed by the C-D-C to close that school and have discussions about what we do with the related schools and the rest of the district.”

“The risk of sharing a virus in an open field where you are playing sports is pretty low. The higher risk is to the people in the stands sitting next to each other and sharing droplets of saliva when they yell than for the athletes on the field,” she added.

KCHD advises parents to use their own discretion when deciding whether to allow their children to participate in outside activities in which they come in contact with children from a school that has been closed due to illness.

Buchanan said, “Parents and students of any school closed for illness are asked to voluntarily stay home to reduce risk of transmission, whether or not they have flu symptoms. They should not be attending sporting or other events, especially if they are sick.”

KCHD director Mark Jones said it is important to remember that those guidelines are fluid and changing.

“The guidance from the C-D-C on school closure is changing, so what is true today and what the guideline is today may not be tomorrow for these schools.

“As the virus spreads, if it stays in a mild state, the way it is now, I would expect that school closures will be less and less,” he added.

Local pediatrician Dr. Shahid Hasnain with Pediatric Professionals offered some advice on the situation.

“Swine Flu is a wake-up call for us in the sense that we need to pay attention to preventive medicine, which is a neglected area,” he said.

Hasnain addressed the issue of public panic.

“Panic is an unwanted thing and we need to delete it so we can pay attention to the reality of Swine Flu,” he said.

Hasnain said he had three messages for local citizens.

“The first message is handwashing, the second message is handwashing and the third message is handwashing.”

He also advised against rushing to the emergency room at the first sniffle.

“Handle it in a common sense manner. Try to evaluate yourself or child. What are your symptoms? If it is just runny nose or fever do I need to panic? No. But if it is runny nose, fever, headache, sore throat, body aches … then I should start thinking in the direction of Swine Flu, but in a calculated manner. We do not need to rush toward the E-R. It is not going to benefit anybody. In fact, we will get exposed to more germs in the E-R,” he said.

Common sense also applies to those who are not sick.

Hasnain advised avoiding crowds when possible.

“If there is a movie I want to see at the theater, I should wait,” he said.

He added that sick children should be kept home for 7 to 10 days to avoid spreading the illness.

KCHD has opened a public health hotline to help answer questions about the virus and its prevention. For frequent updates on the state of the virus in Knox County, visit

Guidelines for school closings can be found on the CDC Web site at


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