School closed due to illnesses
By Faye Ellison
The appearance of flu-like symptoms before the general influenza season has many healthcare providers encouraging citizens to get a flu shot now. Those same flu symptoms and gastrointestinal viruses have even closed one school system locally.
Glascock County School System closed on Friday, Sept. 4 to allow students and teacher four consecutive days at home to break the viral incubation cycle and ultimately improve future student attendance, Glascock County Superintendent Jim Holton said.
“Earlier in the week I noticed the absenteeism rate was increasing each day,” he said. “School Nurse Debbie Milburn informed me of the rising numbers of illness within our student population. As our first priority is always the safety, health and well being of our students, school administration was very concerned.”
Holton said he met with the East Georgia Central Health District Director Dr. Ketty Gonzalez and members of her staff, along with local Public Health Facility Administrator Nona Lord, last Wednesday to gather information regarding the steadily increasing numbers of students reporting illness, mostly gastrointestinal viruses with around 20 cases of influenza. Lord said that some cases of influenza were diagnosed through the Glascock County Health Department, while others were diagnosed at private physician offices.
“With the Labor Day weekend approaching the circumstance would enable the school to add an additional day, which would almost certainly have been compromised with losses of instructional time due to increasing student absences,” Holton said.
Lord said that it is unusual to have the season flu appearing this early in the year.
“We have had several people come in with the flu,” she said. “With the flu, people usually get symptoms late in November or December, sometime around Christmas.”
Lord confirmed that the local Health Department did assist the school system. A letter was sent to students’ parents or guardians addressing the closing of the school, the spread of the flu and the possibility of the H1N1 influenza or swine flu.
“We still have no confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza (swine flue); however, local physicians have indicated that the likelihood of H1N1 is significant and are treating students as though they have this type of flu,” Holton said in the letter.
“This school dismissal day along with our Labor Day holiday of Sept. 7, will in effect allow for four consecutive days at home. This should break the viral incubation cycle and allow time for the maintenance staff to disinfect school facilities. In addition, these days will allow ample time for those who are sick to recover completely and ultimately will improve future attendance.”
The Glascock County Health Department will hold a flu vaccination clinic at the school on Sept. 11, for the seasonal flu vaccine, which will cost $25. Lord also said the Health Department has flu vaccines now and it will cost $25 per shot as well or may be paid for through Peachcare, Medicaid, Medicare, Amerigroup or Wellcare.
“People need to get it now,” Lord said. “It is here and we want to try to fight it off as much as we can. If you have the flu, please stay at home and follow regular CDC (Center for Disease Control) guidelines. We encourage everyone to get the flu shot. With flu season already here, we need to try to vaccinate as many people as we possibly can.”
Jefferson County has first confirmed case of Swine Flu
By Faye Ellison
The flu has came early this year in many counties in the CSRA including Jefferson and Glascock. Glascock County Superintendent Jim Holton said in a letter to parents and guardians last week that this flu is being treated as the H1N1 virus or swine flu.
While Glascock County Public Health Facility Administrator Nona Lord said no cases of H1N1 have been confirmed in Glascock County, because testing is limited to patients who are hospitalized, many area residents have been asking questions about the national epidemic. As of August, the CDC confirmed that 98 percent of circulating influenza viruses nationwide were H1N1.
“We have had people wanting to know about the swine flu,” she said. “We are expecting to get the swine flu vaccine sometime in the near future.”
Tips from the East Central Health District
Jefferson County Health Department Director Janet Pilcher did confirm last week one case of the swine flu in a Jefferson County resident.
“We have had one confirmed case of H1N1 in the county,” Pilcher said. They were hospitalized and we took the specimen to Augusta on Aug. 21. We found out last week that it was H1N1. By that time the person had recovered and was at home doing fine.”
Pilcher said that the Jefferson County School System has had some influenza like illnesses in the schools but none of those cases are confirmed H1N1.
Only those that are hospitalized are checked for the swine flu. She said the one confirmed patient was hospitalized to stave off dehydration.
“We are giving the seasonal flu vaccine earlier than usual,” she said. “With everything going on with H1N1, we are advising people to get he seasonal flu vaccine now too.”
Lord also said all Glascock County citizens are encouraged to receive the seasonal flu vaccine as well. Pilcher said that the swine flu vaccine is expected to be available sometime in October.
According to information released from the Departments of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia, the swine flu appeared near the U.S./Mexico border region in April of this year.
“Although initial reports from Mexico suggested a very high mortality rate, subsequent data indicate that this virus actually has relatively low virulence and is no more dangerous than the seasonal influenza,” the report states.
MCG reported that though it is unclear why this strain has continued to circulate throughout the summer months in the U.S., an estimate from a special White House Panel estimating that between 60-90,000 Americans may die is an overestimate.
“The reason for the high number is because 30 to 50 percent of Americans may become infected this season due to the fact that this is a new virus and the human population has no pre-existing immunity.”
MCG encourages patients with influenza-like illness to stay home and receive supportive care. Patients with a high risk medical conditions should seek medical care if antiviral medications are available, but children over the age of five and otherwise healthy adults under 65 generally do not require medical evaluation unless their symptoms are prolonged, such as a fever lasting longer than five days or unusually severe breathing or dehydration.
Possible symptoms of seasonal influenza and the swine flu include fever, body aches and headaches, sore throat, tiredness, chills, loss of appetite, itchy and watery eyes, runny nose, cough, vomiting and diarrhea.
Do not send your child to school with a fever. Keep children with flu-like illness at home so they do not infect others.
Sick children should not return to school or participate in any activities putting them in contact with others until their fever has been gone for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication.
Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. If you use a tissue to cover coughs or sneezes, throw it in the trash after you use it.
Avoid giving children aspirin or products that contain aspirin, as it has been linked to Reyes Syndrome.
Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
Have your family, including your children, vaccinated against regular seasonal flu.
The seasonal flu shot at either Health Department costs $25 or is covered by Peachcare, Medicaid, Medicare, Amerigroup or Wellcare.
The future of firefighting
By Jared Stepp
SHIPS for Youth and Young Adult Empowerment recently implemented a program to train future firefighters to go into the workforce. Students, ages 18-30, attend a rigorous three month long program that started on June 1 at the Louisville Fire Department.
The students meet eight hours daily for three months after it is verified that they meet the requirements of the Georgia Fire Academy and the Workforce Investment Act Program of east Central Georgia.
“After completion of the program the young adults will have the opportunity to apply for positions with any fire departments in the state of Georgia,” said Assistant Chief Chester Johnson. “Full time or volunteer. Once they have a position on a certified Fire Department, they will be expected and qualified to perform all the requirements of firefighting.”
The Program includes classroom sessions and realistic drills as part of the apprenticeship program taught by Johnson and assisted by Roy Norton of the HillCrest Fire Department for weekly practice exercises.Their studies involve activities from curriculums such as Botvin Life Skills, Survivor Skills for Young Adults and Georgia Basic Firefighter.
In the Botvin Life Skills curriculum, the students studied personal and family values, communication, goal setting, decision making and self esteem.
In the Survivor Skills for Young Adults curriculum the students learned personal and family health, legal rights and responsibilities, finding and getting a job, keeping a job and money management.
In the Georgia’s Basic Firefighter Certification Curriculum the students covered 13 sections of the course with a test before and after each section.
After taking a final written exam, students received a GFA certificate indicating they had completed the 79 hour Module 1 program.
Daily activities consisted of doing general tasks around the fire station: cleaning the station and engines, search and rescue, painting and maintaining fire hydrants, fire hose line curling, ladder rescue, ladder operations, performing fire safety classes at area schools, carrying unconscious “victims”, attending bi weekly training drills at assigned stations and attending regular classroom sessions from the fire fighter certification curriculum.
Jefferson County Fire Departments Association supplied training equipment and supplies needed for the program.
Current students enrolled in the program are Tucker Seeloff, Clint Williams, Matt Story, Terrence Driggors, Leon Gibbons and Demon Thomas; all from the Jefferson County Area.
The class said that they are in the program for the well being and their love of the community. Several classmates said they want to better themselves and brighten their future, others said they liked the physical training and a few said they wanted to learn how to save people’s lives and protect people’s property.
“All participants did extremely well in the class. All had different reasons for taking the class but were committed in giving it their best and performed all classroom and practical exercises to meet Georgia Basic Firefighter standards,” said Johnson.
The Cadet program thoroughly trains our future firefighters and prepares them for the workforce, explained Johnson. “The program was designed to teach young men and women self-responsibility and self-esteem necessary for them to gain and retain employment.”
“The overall goal of this training was to give these young men the experience and basic skills needed to obtain and retain employment, and I believe they have met that goal,” he said.
This past program ended on Aug. 10. Johnson said he is not sure when the next one will be at this time.
Anyone interested in the Fire Cadet Program should contact Assistant Chief Chester Johnson at the Louisville Fire Department, (478) 625-8897 or at Jefferson County Community SHIPS for Youth Inc. (478) 625-9297.
Qualifying closes in city races
By Carol McLeod
Qualifying for mayor and city council seats in the cities of Jefferson County ended last week, resulting in no elections in either Louisville or Avera.
In Louisville, Mayor Rita Culvern announced her decision to not seek re-election.
Larry Morgan who is currently a city councilman is the only person to qualify for the mayor’s seat.
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The council seats available in Louisville are those currently held by Morgan, Robert Dixon and Phil Polhill.
The three people who have qualified to run for the council seats are Dixon, Polhill and Matt Hodges.
As there is no opposition, there will be no election for these seats.
In Avera, Mayor Tommy Sheppard is the only candidate for that position.
Council members Ronnie Hadden and Mary Mahoney qualified.
Councilman Lanier Padgett did not.
Ricky Norton was the only other person to qualify. As there is no opposition in this race, there will be no election in Avera either.
In Bartow, the mayor’s seat and all five city council seats are available.
Mayor John Albert Mancin III qualified for city council, as did Sally Smith Brooks, Fred C. Evans Jr., James Jackson Jr., Josh Z. McClain, Billy Neal, Lee Edward Shellman Jr., Ernest C. “Ken” Smith III and Catherine Swint.
Councilman Hubert F. Jordan Jr. and Robert Dwayne Morris qualified for mayor. Council member Paula Stickle is not running for re-election.
In Stapleton, the mayor’s seat and two council members’ seats are available.
Mayor Harold Smith, Paul Rathburn, June Rooks and Jack E. Wood qualified to run for mayor.
Councilman Jason Irby and William P. Beckworth qualified for the two city council seats. As Councilwoman Kay Leigh Sheppard is not running for re-election and there are only two candidates for the two seats, voters will need to vote only for mayor in that election.
In Wadley, the positions available are for mayor and three council members.
Mayor Herman Baker is the only person who qualified for that seat.
Council members Randall Jones, John Maye and Elizabeth Moore have each qualified for council seats as have Izell Mack and Dorothy Strowbridge.
Wadley officials have announced a change in the voting location. Voters in that election should go to the city’s community center.
No Jefferson County commissioners or any county school board officials face re-election this year. Current terms for those seats in the election expire Dec. 31.
The election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 3, from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.
The last day a person may register and be eligible to vote in these elections is Monday, Oct. 5.