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Local day care, camp organizers not worried by flu outbreaks

POSTED: June 18, 2009 1:01 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

Melanie Charles explains a game to children in her kindergarten-age Vacation Bible School Class on Wednesday morning at Lakewood Baptist Church. Three summer camps in North Georgia have reported flu outbreaks.

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Three summer camps in North Georgia reported flu outbreaks this week and one has postponed its camp session, but camps and day cares in Gainesville aren’t worried.

"There aren’t really any concerns," said Caitlynn Jones, director of RK’s Daycare & Preschool on Park Hill Drive. "All the kids are healthy. We use a lot of hand sanitizer, the kids wash their hands often and we spray everything down."

But Jones said precautions are in place if symptoms arise.

"If they have a fever over 100, they have to be sent home," she said.

Policies are also set up for Gainesville Parks and Recreation camps, said director J. Melvin Cooper.

"We talk to parents about it and take precaution when children are handed off to day camp sites," he said. "We follow up with parents to see if there have been any fevers at home, and so far we have not had any incidents whatsoever."

Children gathered at First United Methodist Church on Thompson Bridge Road this week for Vacation Bible School have help nearby if they exhibit flu-like symptoms.

"If a child comes down with something, we have our parish nurse here. We’re lucky and thankful for her," said Debbie Morris, director of children’s ministries. "But in working with children, we take the same precautionary measures as always, mostly making sure they wash their hands."

Handwashing and hand sanitizer are the best precautions at Camp Elachee.

"We’re a day camp, so it’s a little different. The children don’t stay overnight, and we don’t provide food services, so there’s not much else we can do there," said Andrea Timpone, president and chief executive officer of Elachee Nature Science Center. "We keep the campers outdoors and make sure they get good, fresh air."

Union for Reform Judaism Camp Coleman in Cleveland decided to postpone Sunday’s camp opening after some of the camp’s staff reported flu-like symptoms.

"All parents of campers have been contacted, notified about the delay in opening the camp and advised as to URJ’s actions," Rabbi Elliott Kleinman, chief program officer, said in a statement Wednesday.

About 45 of the 160 staff members reported mild symptoms. The Georgia Department of Health has chosen not to administer the specific test for swine flu and "are presuming that these cases represent the novel H1N1 strain," Kleinman released in the statement.

The staff are being treated by camp physicians and quarantined for seven days. Families will be notified when the camp will open.

Public health officials are still waiting for results after campers tested positive for Type A influenza Monday at Camp Ramah Darom, a Jewish camp in Rabun County, said David Palmer, public information officer for District 2 Public Health.

The Georgia Public Health Laboratory confirmed on Monday that a Georgia Tech student tested positive for the H1N1 infection, and the student is recovering at home.

As of Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta reported 39 confirmed and probable swine flu cases that have occurred in Georgia, and schoolchildren could be the first to receive vaccines this fall in their schools.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday she is urging school superintendents around the country to spend the summer preparing for the possibility of turning schools into clinics, if the government goes ahead with mass vaccinations.

"If you think about vaccinating kids, schools are the logical place," Sebelius told The Associated Press.

No decision has been made yet on whether and how to vaccinate millions of Americans against the new flu strain that the World Health Organization last week formally dubbed a pandemic, meaning it now is circulating the globe unchecked. But the U.S. is pouring money into development of a vaccine in anticipation of giving at least some people the shots.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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