It’s not as bad as you think

Despite the high levels of influenza seen throughout the nation, and the hours-long wait in local hospital emergency rooms, medical experts here in Buncombe County say the region has been having an average flu season. In a recent Buncombe County Health Center media release, Disease Control Supervisor Barbara Dalton reported that Western North Carolina’s flu epidemic is still “within seasonal expectations” — and, by the time you read this, it will probably have peaked.

Dalton based her assessment, in part, on a report compiled by the Communicable Disease Branch of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. “According to the state flu report,” Dalton said in the release, “flu activity in our region is at expected normal levels, which is estimated to be approximately 10 percent of those individuals presenting with flu-like symptoms.

“Because the flu is not lab-confirmed on most individuals with flu-like symptoms,” she added, “the state report is an indicator of the level of flu activity, as well as the type of flu, we’re seeing in our area.”

Dalton also looked at Health Center data on flu-related emergency-room visits and hospitalizations, and at rates of absence in selected Asheville City and Buncombe County schools. “School age children have not been significantly impacted with the flu compared to the numbers of adults,” she concluded, noting that, “At this point, students are missing school more frequently due to strep throat and other viruses.”

That could change in the coming weeks, however, since a number of flu-infected kids are reported to have come to school.

To learn more about the region’s flu statistics, call the Buncombe County Health Center at 250-5000. To learn more about the flu itself, visit the Health Center’s Web site at www.buncombecounty.orgwhathotflu.htm, or consult your encyclopedia.

A cardboard box saved is a cardboard box earned

In an effort to discourage us from wasting a readily recyclable commodity (which, according to one source, accounts for more than 13 percent of the nation’s entire waste stream), city of Asheville sanitation crews will no longer accept corrugated cardboard boxes as trash. City recycling crews, however, will still collect empty, flattened corrugated cardboard boxes that are placed out with curbside recycling bins.

Corrugated cardboard that is coated with wax or contaminated with food, however, will still be collected with the trash, since those items are not locally recyclable.

Noncorrugated cardboard may be recycled as “mixed paper” at the city’s recycling center, adjacent to the Tunnel Road Wal-Mart.

For more information about the city’s recycling programs, collection schedules, or recycling locations, call Curbside Management at 252-2532. If you have specific questions about cardboard collection, call the city’s recycling office (259-5936).

Rite of passage

Do you home-school your kids? Have friends who do? The Homeschool Journalism Club is inviting all interested local home-schoolers to submit pages for publication in the Fourth Annual Homeschool Yearbook.

Submissions may be in the form of stories, essays, poems, photos, artwork or comics, and may reflect just about any type of home-school experience. “Who are you, and what do you think?” queries a recent Homeschool Yearbook media release. “Do you have a sport, or do you play a musical instrument? Tell us about it.”

The preferred format for submissions is an 8.5-by-11-inch page with a quarter-inch border; black-and-white or high-contrast images are best. The cost is $10 for the first page and $7.50 for each additional page submitted, if received before April 15; material received between April 15 and May 1 will cost $12 for the first page, and $10 per additional page. All contributors receive one yearbook free; extra books ($20 each) may be ordered until May 1.

For more information, contact Callie Wolhart at 645-5976, Blaise D’Angio at 669-2225, or Robin Cape at 251-2304.

Clear as mud

What’s in a name? Quite a lot, in the eyes of The Environmental and Conservation Organization, a Henderson County environmental group. In a recent newsletter, ECO announced the hope that the unfortunately named Mud Creek could be redesignated Oklawaha Creek (a name used on old maps). Mud Creek, says the group, is one of the county’s most polluted streams; renaming it, they hope, will raise awareness of both its natural beauty and its degraded condition.

“We’re soliciting public opinion on renaming the creek,” explains Executive Director Mary Jo Padgett. “Maybe if it’s called something a little more poetic, people will be able to look at it differently.”

Mud Creek’s 303-D designation by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources attests to its poor water quality. One of the area’s primary streams — it flows directly through Hendersonville, and once formed the city’s eastern boundary — Mud Creek picks up pollutants from such sources as a “package” wastewater-treatment plant, agricultural activity and dairy farms. The city of Hendersonville’s stormwater-drainage system also feeds into the creek. “All the stormwater-system pipes go to a stream untreated,” Padgett explains, “and Mud Creek is a major collector of that urban runoff.”

Simply renaming the stream, of course, won’t fix these problems. “The biggest positive factor that could happen is the monitoring of wastewater-treatment plants along the creek, and making sure they are running well,” Padgett maintains. “The plants will always have some polluting influence — they’re treatment plants, after all; that’s what they do. But you can certainly cut that down by making sure a lot of your plants are running well.”

Other crucial steps, she says, include cleaning up Mud Creek’s major tributaries, such as the highly polluted Bat Fork Creek.

In the meantime, however, renaming Mud Creek could serve a useful purpose, ECO believes. “We’re hoping that, along with merely changing the name — or even just talking about changing the name — we can raise awareness of our streams and how they all tie in together in the watershed,” says Padgett. “This gives us a chance to talk about this part of our lives. We all live here on this land, and the streams are part of our landscape.”

To learn more about the status of Mud Creek’s — er, Oklawaha’s — name, call 692-0385, or see ECO’s Web site ( A petition is also available for signing at the ECO offices (119 Third Ave. West, Hendersonville).

Gifts for girls

Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that even big institutions may need help. The Girl Scouts of Western North Carolina is one such organization, serving more than 5,000 girls and adults in 15 WNC counties, plus the Cherokee Indian Reservation. And, as if to remind us that their job is not as easy as it looks, they recently sent out a wish list of things they could use … if you don’t need them, of course.

The Girl Scout Council Service Center is looking for: five laptop computers and five cell phones, for field executive staff; a TV/VCR; a phone system with voice mail; a pricing gun; a “slat wall” for displaying merchandise; a microwave; a toaster; a projector for Power Point presentations; a FAX machine with memory capability; and a laminator.

And then there’s Camp Pisgah, whose wish list includes: a pickup truck; five whitewater kayaks (with skirts, paddles and helmets); five new mountain bikes; a golf cart; five paddle boats; five sleeping bags; a 17-foot fiberglass ladder; 30 spinning rods and reels for fishing; five wagons for transporting luggage; a basketball goal; jump ropes; pool toys; and various balls and bats.

Donations are, of course, tax-deductible. The value of the gift should be provided by the donor, in writing (if no receipt is available, a signed letter will do). Gifts worth more than $1,000 must be reviewed by the Girl Scouts Fund Development Committee before the council can accept the donation.

To learn more about the Girl Scouts of WNC, call 252-4442. To make a donation, call Amy Sperry, director of development, at the same number.

— Cheekily compiled by Paul Schattel

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