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Flu strains not widespread...yet

November 18, 2009
LANCASTER— The Lancaster area and surrounding towns haven't been hit hard by the flu yet, but H1N1 vaccines are scarce.

According to Scott Howe, CEO of Weeks Medical Center, the H1N1 vaccination is only being administered to high-risk patients such as children from six-months-old to 18 years old with chronic health problems and pregnant women.

In local schools attendance is holding steady. White Mountains Regional High School Nurse Andrea Roy said, student attendance has been stable and even higher then last year around this time. She also noted that the school has not been significantly affected by any flu — seasonal or H1N1.

SAU 36 Superintendent. Dr. Lou Lafasciano even said at a recent school board meeting that there have been no more absences than usual throughout the district.

In the Groveton area, however, the number of sick children is growing by the week, but is in step with last years absent rate.

"The number has increased only in the last two weeks otherwise about the same as last year," said Interim Superintendent Ronald Paquette of SAU 58, "This week alone there has been a real significant rise in absences, we're talking 25 out of 400 elementary and high school students in Groveton with 15 out the week before and 20 out of 100 students in Stratford with only ten out the week before. Mr. Paquette confidently added that many of the kids that are out have been complaining of flu like symptoms.

Those who feel ill should not come to school, he explained. "If you don't feel well, stay home," Mr. Paquette recommended.

Whether anyone with flu like symptoms is suffering from the seasonal flu or the H1N1 flu, no one will know since local medical professionals are not testing for it.

"The state and the Center for Disease Control are saying not to test because the results don't change the treatment," said Weeks Medical CEO Scott Howe. "The best treatment is simply to stay home and get rest."

Sandy Ghelli, Nurse of Groveton Elementary also said that children with flu symptoms are not being tested for H1N1. "Unless children are hospitalized or at possible risk, we treat all influenza-like illness the same," she said, "If you have a fever over 100 with cough and sore throat, then you stay home."

Ms. Ghelli noted that the elementary school is starting to see an increase in sick children even though they have administered vaccinations to 50 per cent of the students for the seasonal flu and had planned on offering the H1N1 vaccine to students before it was restricted to higher risk cases.

Schools and hospitals aren't the only ones keeping tabs on the flu, the CoŲs Nursing Home at West Stewartstown remains at a level "yellow" alert, reported administrator Laura Mills. This is because there has been a confirmed case of H1N1 flu in Colebrook and there seems to be some sort of flu around.

H1N1 vaccine was offered to direct-care staff on Nov. 5 and on Nov. 13. Indian Stream Health Clinic cancelled their satellite flu clinic for the community that was scheduled to be held at the nursing home on Nov. 21 due to a lack of available seasonal flu vaccine.

Health-care workers are also at the top of the vaccine list seeing as they would be at the highest risk. Mr. Howe noted that this triage approach of giving out the vaccinations is due to delays in manufacturing and if the shortage becomes a surplus then it will be more widely available. Weeks Medical Center has a hotline that people can call to get updates on the vaccine situation: (603) 788-5347.

— Edith Tucker contributed to this report.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Town of Alexandria
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