By J. PATRICK PEPPER
DEARBORN — A student at Edsel Ford High School last week became the first confirmed case of H1N1, or swine flu, in the 18,000-student Dearborn Public Schools district.
As of press time the student still was at home recovering from the virus. Also as of press time, there had been no further confirmed cases of H1N1, DPS officials said.
Although H1N1 has proven less virulent than some health authorities initially feared, the district on Oct. 12 sent a letter from Supt. Brian Whiston to district parents disclosing the information. The letter said the district would not be sending out more mailings as future cases are diagnosed, because the relative severity and contagiousness of H1N1 wouldn’t merit it.
“Because this is something that has received a lot of attention and we knew it might be out there, we wanted to make sure that people didn’t think we were trying to conceal it,” district spokesman David Mustonen said.
Since H1N1 was discovered in April, the number of cases diagnosed per month in Wayne County has been on the decline, officials say.
The falling number of confirmed cases is mostly because H1N1 testing itself has been decreasing as H1N1 pathology has revealed itself to be similar to the seasonal flu, said Talat Danish, director of medicine for the county’s Department of Community Health.
“When it was first discovered, as is the case with any newly discovered disease, no one knew how it would act, so we wanted to cover all of our bases,” Danish said. “But H1N1 is behaving very similarly to the seasonal flu so we are just asking that people follow the usual precautions for flu prevention.”
Danish said that although H1N1 exhibits similar symptoms to seasonal flu, it poses a higher risk of infection because it is a new disease and people who haven’t had it aren’t immune. Danish added that high-risk populations should seek vaccination.
The recently developed vaccine, as well as the traditional flu vaccine, is being recommended for pregnant women, medical workers and people who are in contact with children less than 6 months old, 6 months to 24 years old or 25 to 65 years old with underlying medical conditions.
Still, with the flurry of media coverage about H1N1 that has been criticized by some for overstating the severity of the disease, many parents are uncertain what they should do with their own school-aged children.
Lindbergh Elementary School Parent Teacher Student Association President Elsie Thibodeaux said her group has decided to find out for itself. Thibodeaux, who has children in fifth and second grade, currently is trying to arrange for an Oakwood Hospital & Medical Center doctor to speak at an upcoming meeting.
“Just as a parent and speaking with other parents, I think we just want information on which we can base a decision on whether to immunize or not to immunize our children,” Thibodeaux said.