Officials say the child was treated at a local hospital, has recovered and is now back in school. The student’s sibling, who was exhibiting similar symptoms, also received treatment and now appears to be well.
“Pike County Emergency Services will never release information that has not been confirmed. I have said it since last Wednesday — ‘When I have confirmation, I will let you know.’ I received that confirmation this (Wednesday) morning during a long conversation with state health officials,” Pike County Fire Chief Danny Henderson said. “We have stood steadfast in that we would release information as it became available. We have had two pieces of information over the course of the past week — one, that we had an unconfirmed case of swine flu and two, that we now have a confirmed case of swine flu.”
Although he had received no confirmation from public health officials, Duncan said he believed the source of his information to be credible, which led to his announcement that the sick child did not have swine flu.
“We were communicating with the child’s parents who told us that the child’s health care provider had said it wasn’t swine flu,” Duncan said. “I think when the doctor tells you that and the parent gives you that information, I think that’s about as credible as you can get. What better source can you have than a child’s parent?”
When asked if he regrets issuing erroneous information in this incident, Duncan said he does not.
“No, we don’t regret coming out with that, because we didn’t come out with it,” he said. “The question was asked of us and we answered. We though that was good information to go with. We are getting out revised information today.”
The information regarding the unconfirmed case of swine flu was not made public by Pike County school officials, but rather by Pike County Manager Steve Marro during the Aug. 12 Board of Commissioners meeting.
Marro received a phone call from Henderson during the course of that meeting when he was informed of the situation. Marro asked Henderson if he should make an announcement and was told, “Yes. Absolutely.”
Before the close of the Board of Commissioners meeting, Duncan appeared and spoke to the governing body, expressing his strong opinion that the announcement should never have been made in that manner, referring to it as “completely inappropriate,” and stating that he would “appreciate some professional courtesy to be notified before the public is notified in this way.”
In response, Henderson explained Wednesday that public announcement and the ensuing PCES investigation was prompted by public concerns.
“The reason we even started our initial investigation is because I began to receive phone calls from mothers of Pike County that morning, asking me what was going on with the swine flu,” Henderson said. “People were also dialing 911 and asking the dispatchers what was going on with the swine flu. I understand Duncan’s concern that we release information in such a way as to not cause a panic. However, Pike County mothers were already in a heightened state of alert. Because of that, we made the determination that releasing no information wasn’t the right thing to do.”
Henderson said in retrospect, he is uncertain if his decision to publicly announce the unconfirmed case of the H1N1 virus was the correct one. However, he went on to say that by disseminating the information in what he believes was the proper manner, the concerns of local parents appeared to have been quelled.
“Did we do the right thing? I don’t know. What I do know is that the phone calls to the fire department and 911 stopped after the initial information was released,” he said. “We had a responsibility to respond to the people who were concerned and asking questions. We gave people information about what was going on and allowed them to make informed decisions. We stand by the decision we made.”