Pennsylvania Health Officials Issues Warnings On H1N1

With the potential danger posed by the spread of infectious diseases on many people’s minds, health care experts have issued guidelines for schools and employers to help with containment. The spread of the so-called swine flu (more correctly identified as H1N1) caused worldwide concern and even panic in some areas.

The H1N1 strain of influenza is unique, because it combines genes from swine, bird and human influenza viruses. It is believed to be transmitted by infected people by coughing and sneezing.

In order to keep current on outbreaks of H1N1 and other infectious diseases, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency says it has “enhanced its surveillance and planning efforts by increasing the coordination with local hospital representatives, as well as state and federal public health partners.”

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health has issued advisories for those who know a person ill with H1N1 or who have themselves contracted H1N1 should:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.

Physicians have been advised to put patients with suspected or confirmed cases of H1N1 in single-patient hospital rooms with doors kept closed. The patient should be isolated in an airborne infection isolation room, if one is available.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, closing schools is not necessary when there are confirmed or probable cases of H1N1. The Department says school officials should instead focus on prompt recognition of the disease and exclusion of the ill student or staff member from the school in order to minimize the risk of a wider outbreak.

If a student or staff member has an influenza-like illness, they should not attend school while ill and should not return until their illness has been resolved. The Department of Health said the ill person should stay away from school for a minimum of seven days.

All such cases should be reported to local health authorities. The Department added that people who have had close contact with those infected might need to take an antiviral drug.

If your child’s school did not take reasonable steps to prevent the spread of H1N1 and your child became seriously ill, you may be able to sue. However, claims made against public schools may be barred or limited due to the Commonwealth’s sovereign immunity statute or similar laws that protect the City of Philadelphia, such as the Political subdivision Tort Claims Act. An experienced attorney can advise you of possible claims.