COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Cases of H1N1 are hitting school districts in the state. Is it time to panic? Health officials say no, but it is time to take precautions.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control is giving school districts a letter they can send home with students. It warns parents to take steps now to prevent a flu outbreak later.
We learn it when we're children: Wash our hands to get rid of germs. Inside Harper's restaurant in Columbia's Five Points, Kate and William Echols may not realize the significance now, but what they're doing will help protect them and their family members from getting the dreaded H1N1 flu.
"The main reason we're concerned about novel H1N1 influenza is the fact it's novel," said Jim Beasley, Public Information Director for DHEC. "It's new. It's unique."
Beasley says right now DHEC officials are watching for outbreaks or clusters of this type of flu.
"If we see certain numbers of people that are starting to get sick in one area or maybe even in one school, that is something we would want to investigate," said Beasley.
Commonly called the swine flu, the virus first surfaced last April. It's expected to spread more now that students are back in school.
"We are telling the school districts now and telling the parents by way of a letter that it's important to note the H1N1 virus is here in South Carolina," said Beasley. "But the flu is the flu. And one of the best ways you can fight influenza is by getting a flu shot each year."
Drug makers are working to develop a vaccine for H1N1 flu. It's expected to be available later this year.
In the meantime, common sense health practices we can learn even from children like that hand-washing, covering your cough and staying home when sick will help protect all of us.