More Florida Swine Flu Deaths, Absenteeism in Schools

TAMPA – A 50-year-old woman and a 34-year-old man became Pinellas and Polk counties’ second swine flu deaths as a Hillsborough County private school deals with a spike in absences attributed to the virus.

Both of those who died had other health problems, as have the six Hillsborough County residents reported killed by H1N1.

Details such as where the woman lived, what her other health problems were, and when she died were not available, according to Maggie Hall of the Pinellas Health Department.

The man died today, reported Daniel Haight of the Polk Health Department.

“These deaths highlight the seriousness of influenza, especially in those with an underlying medical condition,” he wrote in a press release. “”It is very important that a person with mild flu not expose those at higher risk.”

That’s what students at Tampa Catholic High School appear to be doing. Twenty percent of the 700 students are absent, many with suspected swine flu, their principal reported.

The outbreak has led to the cancellation of junior varsity football practice the past two days.

“We’ve told people to stay home if they feel like they have anything,” said Prinicipal Tom Reidy said. “I’m happy our kids and parents are listening to that.”

The increase in cases was not unexpected. Young people are especially susceptible to swine flu and on school campuses, the highly contagious virus can spread quickly. Hillsborough County Health Department Director Doug Holt predicted it would take two weeks for influenza to invade a campus once classes started; that’s how long Tampa Catholic students have been back at school.

To avoid getting or spreading the flu, health officials recommend that you:

* Avoid close contact with people who are coughing or otherwise appear ill.

* Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

* Wash hands frequently to lessen the spread of respiratory illness.

* Contact your physician if you are experiencing cough, fever and fatigue, possibly along with diarrhea and vomiting.

Geez. I know that we’ve been told to “wash our hands frequently” to combat swine flu. That advice is given, of course, by people that haven’t been in the classroom and don’t know that usually there isn’t even time to go to the bathroom, let alone wash hands frequently throughout the day. Washing hands isn’t going to make much difference, either, when a sick lil’ cherub whose parents were not supposed to send him/her to school ill coughs/sneezes directly in your face or uses the hem of your clothing for a snot rag.

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