Worries about third wave of H1N1

REGION — Although area public health officials say H1N1 infection rates appear to be waning among most communities in the Northwest Corner, they are concerned a third wave of infections could hit the area even harder later next month.

James Rokos, the director of the Torrington Area Health District, told The Journal that his office has received unofficial reports that the number of people suffering from flu-like symptoms who are out sick from work and school is “waning.â€

“But it’s hard to know exactly what’s happening out there,†Rokos added.

The district serves the towns of Winsted and Norfolk, as well as Torrington and several others in the area.

Richard Matheny, the director of the Farmington Valley Health District, said his staff has also heard similar reports of lowering infection rates.

“Anecdotally, I’ve heard that — at least in the schools — there has been a leveling off of absenteeism,†Matheny said, although he added that the district does not yet “have any hard figures to back that up.â€

The district serves the residents of Barkhamsted, Colebrook, Hartland and New Hartford, as well as six other nearby towns.

“But we’re still seeing lab reports coming in indicating there’s certainly influenza in the community, and most of it is more than likely the pandemic H1N1 variety,†he said.

Absentee rates within the Winchester and Region 7 school districts also suggest a declining infection rate.

Winchester Public Schools Superintendent Blaise Salerno said his schools had about 6 percent of their students out with flu-like symptoms last Friday.

That number has been as high as 8 or 9 percent over the past few weeks.

“We have been monitoring very closely how we are doing,†Salerno said.

The Region 7 School District has seen its absentee rate fall over the last few weeks.

Clinton Montgomery, Region 7 superintendent of schools, said Tuesday the district’s number of students out with flu-like symptoms peaked “several weeks ago†at 8 percent.

Since then, the number has been in a steady decline, and now sits at about 3 percent.

“It’s very low now,†Montgomery said.

But health-care professionals are concerned that an expected third wave of H1N1 infections could not only affect more people, but also bring with it a more severe form of the virus.

Rokos said the area is now in the final stages of a second wave of infections. Each wave of the virus is estimated to last about six to 12 weeks. And so, area officials are preparing for a third wave, which could hit the area just in time for the holiday season.

“And it’s the severity we worry about,†he said of third wave.

To help combat the virus, both health districts have held H1N1 vaccination clinics. Although the Farmington district is holding an appointment-only clinic tomorrow, it was already filled up at press time.

Both departments say that the availability of the vaccine has improved over the last couple of weeks, and the districts are working to set up additional clinics.

For more information, visit the Torrington Area Health District Web site at tahd.org or call 860-489-0436; or visit the Farmington Valley Health District Web site at fvhd.org or call 860-676-1953.

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