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LETTER: A nurse speaks to H1N1 in Rossland

Dear editor,

In reference to your recent comment on the H1N1 issue, I know that part of the role of a journalist is to stimulate discussion, but as I am very involved with the H1N1 initiatives at Selkirk, and in Interior Health, I would like to clarify a couple of things. You indicated that two school principles have noted the absentee rates are the same as usual and that is wonderful, but we must remember, we are dealing with a pandemic, not simply a small geographic area.

The number of schools who have higher than the 10% absentee rates in IH alone are 17 at last count. Perhaps, it hasn't really hit us yet and we can only hope it does not. In some of the schools that have been hard hit, whether students/faculty or employees, several have had to shut down, due to the sheer inability to maintain staffing. It matters not if those folks are mildly, moderately or severely ill. Of course they should stay at home.

Fortunately, most people are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms, my daughter, you and your sons would probably fall into that category. As they were not a) confirmed and/or b) severe, they would not be reported to the public health agency. That doesn't mean that you didn't feel darn crappy, and that your life was unaffected. The thing with this flu that is concerning is not that it is rolling through, as they do at this time of year, but it is the unpredictable nature of who is going to be hit very hard.

We need only to think of the family in Ontario who lost their otherwise healthy 13 year old boy this week. Predictability or lack thereof, seems to be the issue. While 90% of those who have died in Canada, had underlying health issues, 10% did not. Further, they were often in an age group that does not experience mortality when hit with 'the flu'.

So, should we take that seriously? We need to be prudent, not run around with our hands in the air, but teach people basic precautions and provide information that is based on reputable studies so that families can make their own decisions. I don't believe the public is hysterical, but the confusion surrounding availability of vaccine, delays and long line ups have not helped to maintain the calm.

We may be fortunate in our little paradise in that the incidence of H1N1 might not affect too many and take no lives. On the other hand, a pandemic, by nature wreaks havoc in many countries and we must be conscious of that.

With respect,

Linda Gomez, RN, MScN