My girl will attend overnight camp for a week near Brevard in August, and I’m concerned about an unwanted visitor. When she went last year, visions of natural disasters, girl-eating bears, and murky ponds freaked me out. This year, it’s the interloper otherwise known as the swine flu.
The H1N1 virus has been spreading in camps throughout the country, and in particular, in Western North Carolina, one of the nation’s overnight camp centers. The flu was first confirmed in a camp setting at Camp Daniel Boone, a Boy Scout Camp in Canton in June. Since then, there have been cases confirmed at Blue Star Camps and Camp Judaea and probable cases at Camp Ton-A-Wandah (all in Hendersonville County). A camp in Bladen County, N.C., sent all its campers and staff home a couple of weeks ago when about 60 people started having flu-like symptoms. Some camps, such as the Muscular Dystrophy Camps (all around the nation), recently closed for the rest of the summer rather than risk exposing their campers to the virus.
The virus has been giving us a taste of what could come this fall when schools reconvene and conditions become ripe for supporting viral spread. If H1N1 truly is a pig, it’ll be in hog heaven, mucking about from hand to mouth via the moist miasma of shared kid space.
Luckily, the flu virus has been moderate so far. But because of its uniqueness, folks who understand infectious disease are concerned. In the U.S., 37,246 cases of the virus have been confirmed, with more than 200 patient deaths, reported the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on July 10. The World Health Organization increased the swine flu alert to the highest level of global pandemic in mid-June.
This virus is atypical because flu usually falls off significantly by mid-May at the latest. With the outbreak of swine flu, though, there’ve been almost as many cases popping up in June as there were in April. That’s twice as many cases as normal for this time of year, says the CDC.
Also, this virus attacks more children and young adults than usual. About two-thirds of those infected have been younger than 25, again according to the CDC. Possibly because us old fogies have been exposed to a variant of this flu strain and gained some immunity.
The CDC has issued special guidelines for summer camps, given the recent outbreak. They’re pushing frequent hand washing (something I regularly tout as well), and most significantly, the second a child displays symptoms, that kid should be isolated from other campers. Don’t be surprised if a thermometer gets stuck in your kid’s mouth when you drop her off at camp either.
Given all this, I’m concerned. My current plan is to wait and watch. I pray I don’t have any reason to keep my girl from attending camp, because she adores it. Also, I don’t want to hurt her camp. So many camps in the area are suffering from the recession, and I imagine swine flu fears are further deceasing shaky bottom lines.
My kids probably will be first in line for the H1N1 vaccine when it’s available, even though I’m wary of unproven vaccines. But both my kids tend to catch every upper respiratory illness going around, so it’s a good bet that if swine flu’s nearby, they’ll contract it. As with many other parenting decisions, we’ll weigh the options, and go with what seems best for our kids.
One last thought on the swine flu: If you’re one of those parents considering having a swine flu “party” to expose your kids to the virus in hopes of gaining immunity, don’t do it. No one can predict who can get seriously ill and possibly die from exposure to this virus. In my opinion, deliberately exposing your kid to swine flu is like tossing a 3-year-old into a river to see if she’ll sink or swim.
Anne Fitten “Edgy Mama” Glenn writes about a number of subjects, including parenting, at www.edgymama.com.