By Camaron Abundes
ODESSA- A thick white binder, labeled H1N1 2009, sits on Miguel Escobedo's desk at the Ector County Health Department. Escobedo said he is working hard to make sure the community is up to date on the latest information regarding the new strain of influenza.
"Making sure the community, especially health care providers and schools have the right information to give to their clients, to the students, and to the community is our main effort," Escobedo said.
Sharing the facts means Health Department officials must clear up misconceptions about the virus.
"I see reaction from the public is that swine flu came in April, went away and now is back. But it has been with us in Ector County all along," Director of the Ector County Health Department Gino Solla said there has been nearly a case a week since April.
So far, Solla tells NewsWest 9, 13 cases of H1N1 have been confirmed in Ector County including three recent cases in young children, one was hospitalized but Solla said none were serious.
"We have received lab reports for about three children. We didn't investigate them because they weren't ill enough," Solla said.
The new strain of flu is easy to spread, but a vaccine won't be available until after mid-October, according to Escobedo.
"Gatherings, football games, just being close to the droplets, within a six foot area of the droplets, you can catch it and spread it," Solla warned.
State Health officials are no longer testing the virus and the Ector County Health Department has therefore discontinued it's practice of sending off samples taken in the area to state labs. If you have flu like symptoms, Solla says you likely have the swine flu because the traditional flu season doesn't start until late October.
"We can kind of extrapolate that it's going to be the H1N1 if it presents itself just by knowing it's too early for the regular influenza season." Solla explained the state is advising individual departments to report individual cases and to instead treat H1N1 the way they would the seasonal flu.
Health Department officials are recommending people with flu like symptoms stay home. Solla said luckily all the cases have been mild, including the cases involving the three young children enrolled at area day cares. Solla said they are working with the Ector County Independent School District to make sure the staff is aware of what symptoms to look for in students who frequent the school nurse.
Mike Adkins, spokesperson for the ECISD, said the district is working with the health department to identify any cases.