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Swine flu sidelines some summer camps, campers

Scrapes and bruises aren't all that kids are getting at summer camp this year.

Swine flu is spreading through dozens of camps across the country, forcing some to shut down, delay openings or treat campers with antiviral drugs. It's something they haven't had to deal with previously, as seasonal flu has usually subsided by this time of year.

"It's kind of a wakeup call to be aware of this," said Ann Sheets, past president of the American Camp Association. "The thing that is saddest to us is, there are kids who look forward to camp for the whole year, and then they don't get to go."

Swine flu, now officially known as H1N1 influenza, appears to be here for the summer and should last until the seasonal flu season begins in the fall, said Dr. Daniel Jernigan, deputy director of the influenza division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Flu cases are popping up at scouting, religious and other camps nationwide, including in Florida and Texas.

In Fort Lauderdale, a child was sent home from summer church camp last week, and was determined to have swine flu.

Tampa Bay area recreation officials have said they're urging extra hygiene precautions, but haven't had reported cases at local camps. Hillsborough County Health Department spokesman Steve Huard said a few local Boy Scouts contracted swine flu after attending a camp out of state but are recovering.

The Muscular Dystrophy Association has canceled its remaining 47 camps across the country, including some in Florida. Flu cases have occurred among participants in previous MDA camps this year, and children with muscular dystrophy are more vulnerable to respiratory illnesses, the MDA says.

Earlier this month, at least 19 Boy Scouts were sent home from a camp near Asheville, N.C., with symptoms and 10 tested positive for swine flu.

Nearly all flu circulating in the United States is swine flu. While it is generally more mild than regular seasonal flu, it is still contagious, and 87 of the 21,449 cases reported nationwide have been fatal.

Advice to parents from health officials is simple: If your child is sick, don't send him or her to camp, day care or a day recreation program.

Parents don't need to fret over whether their children will catch the flu, the experts say. But preparedness doesn't hurt.

"Speaking as a parent of a daughter headed to camp next week, you want to be engaged in knowing that your camp has a plan," CDC spokesman Joe Quimby said. "Are they going to be proactive about dealing with flu? We want kids to go and have an enjoyable summer."

Staff writer Richard Martin, the Associated Press and the Sun-Sentinel contributed to this report.


Flu-fighting tips

• Stay home until symptoms clear. Children should stay home for seven days from the onset of illness and at least 24 hours after symptoms have disappeared.

• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

• If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands.

• Wash your hands after coughing or sneezing.

• Use waterless alcohol-based hand gels when soap is not available.

Swine flu sidelines some summer camps, campers 06/24/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 5:39pm]
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