More to be aware of regarding the swine flu (H1N1): Young children can apparently "shed" the virus far longer than older kids and adults, which may affect how long they should stay out of school.
But "shedding" is not the same as being contagious, experts said.
The finding comes from an analysis of a May and June outbreak in a Pennsylvania elementary school, according to Achuyt Bhattarai, MD, of the CDC. It was presented to the annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
Here is an explanation, from MedPage Today:
"Earlier this year, researchers reported that adults infected with the H1N1 pandemic flu strain continue to shed virus after the point where current recommendations say they can go back to work or school.
"But those researchers said -- and Bhattarai concurred here -- that it would be a leap to assume that shedding virus means a person remains contagious. Among other things, modern tests are so sensitive they can detect virus in amounts so small that contagion is all but impossible, the experts said.
"The CDC currently recommends that people with flu-like symptoms stay home until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever without using fever-reducing medicines."
Bhattarai tested in two different ways to track the "shedding."
"Overall, [Bhattarai] said, the median time from onset of fever to the end of shedding was six days using RT-PCR. Viable virus was detected using culture for a median of five days after the start of fever, he said.
"But for children younger than 5, the median was eight days by PCR and five by culture, compared with six days for both methods for kids ages 5 through 9 and five for both methods in kids ages 10 through 18.
"The four adults in the analysis stopped shedding a median of four days after the start of fever on both PCR and culture, Bhattarai said."
The findings will help experts determine when children should go back to school.
Here's another version of the story:
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