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By JOHN FRIEDLEIN
FORT KNOX — A 4-year-old Vine Grove boy who attends a day care on post probably has swine flu, officials said.
The case prompted closure of the Child Development Center — which serves more than 300 youths — through Wednesday. Parents who use the facility are encouraged to keep their children home and not seek an alternative day-care.
The post did not release the name of the boy who likely is infected with the H1N1 influenza virus. His father works at Fort Knox, and there are no other children in his home.
The boy, who has not required hospitalization, was “improving and doing well” as of Sunday, said Lt. Col. Lance Raney, medical chief of staff for Ireland Army Community Hospital.
As of this weekend, one swine flu case has been confirmed in Kentucky and four more were considered probable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday reported 279 confirmed U.S. cases in 36 states. One death has been reported.
Locally, the Lincoln Trail District Health Department has helped work on the Fort Knox case. Officials do not believe any other significant area outside the day-care was exposed. And there have been no requests to close any other facility, Raney said.
Also, the boy’s family has been compliant with recommendations.
The patient, who last attended the day-care on Wednesday, has received antiviral medicines.
The virulence of this strain, however, isn’t any more severe than that of the regular flu, Raney said. “I think the key thing is downplaying any hysteria. In time like this, we can over-treat.”
Parents with children at the post’s day-care have been contacted and given information about signs and symptoms. A notice attached to a barrier erected at the facility read: “If children, parents or child care staff develop flu-like symptoms, fever, cough or congestion, they should seek medical attention immediately with their physician or at an emergency room.”
The boy who is probably infected with H1N1 was first seen early last week at Ireland. He neither had a fever nor met the criteria for having the flu and was diagnosed with an upper respiratory tract infection.
But over the next few days the child, who had traveled to the Texas area, developed progressive symptoms — including a fever.
He was deferred to an acute care clinic in Hardin County and a specimen was sent to a state lab. While influenza was confirmed, a test did not show it was one of the area’s two common strains, so the sample was forwarded to the CDC. Of the strains uncommon to a particular area, 98 percent of specimens now tested are the H1N1 virus, Raney said.
Fort Knox on Sunday night announced the local case was probably swine flu.
Since that case came up, the Army hospital has seen an increase in visits — about 10 patients who otherwise wouldn’t have come in.
“The focus has been on early detection,” Raney said. He also said the measures taken by the post have been “more conservative, probably, than they need to be.”
The Child Development Center already had been cleaned to hospital standards, he said. But now there will be a special emphasis.
Precautions against swine flu are being taken off post too. For instance, at Academy of Learning in Elizabethtown, toys are sanitized more frequently, and providers are making sure children thoroughly wash their hands, said employee Paula Butler. The day-care will also call parents sooner to find out why children are absent.
Hardin Memorial Hospital provided tips on preventing the spread of the disease. For instance, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing. Then toss the tissue and wash your hands. If one isn’t available, cough or sneeze into your sleeve.
Also, wash your hands — with an alcohol-based cleaner when soap and water aren’t handy; avoid contact with sick people and touching your mouth, eyes and nose; and stay home from work or school if you’re sick.
According to Dr. William Hacker, commissioner of the state Department for Public Health: “There are no special recommendations to individuals other than to stay informed and focus on practicing good health habits.”
John Friedlein can be reached at (270) 505-1746.