July 3, 2009

US Summer Camps on Alert Due to Swine Flu Fears

For many parents, the summer season is a time when they send their children off to camps, but in light of the recent spread of the H1N1 swine flu earlier this year, many parents are opting to keep their children at home.

Summer camp counselors such as those at New Jersey's Liberty Lake Day Camp are also more aware of the dangers of the H1N1 influenza, which has killed 170 people in the US and more than 300 worldwide.

"We try to create a temporary community in the summer and we are very vigilant about it," Andy Pritikin, director of the camp in Mansfield, New Jersey, told Reuters.

More than one million Americans are likely to be infected with the H1N1 virus, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus typically results in mild symptoms that eventually go away, but it can lead to death in some patients.

The swine flu has been found at a YMC day camp in West Virginia, camp Livingston in Indiana and the entire summer camp program for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, according to Reuters.

"Why I would want to spend a fortune on the summer camp when the risk is the same?" asked Jing Zhang, a mother who decided to keep her 5-year-old daughter at a local daycare center this summer.

"My kids can always go back to the program at a later date. If not, I will sign them up for some local arts and crafts programs," Lin Huang, who has sent her two children to the Little Red School House day camp in Manhattan, told Reuters.

Dr. Daniel Rauch, a pediatrician at New York University Langone Medical Center, told Reuters that the likelihood of catching the virus is greatly increased when children spend time in close quarters situations such as sleeping near each other in bunks or tents.

However, he added, children do not face any more of a risk of coming down with the virus than they do when visiting a public playground or a shopping mall.


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