TUCSON, Ariz., June 19, 2009 – Due to overriding concern for the health and safety of Jerry’s Kids, the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) announced today that it is immediately canceling the remainder of its annual summer camp program because of the H1N1 virus.
“These children are much more vulnerable because of their weakened respiratory muscles, so we are taking this preemptive action to protect them from possible exposure to the swine flu,” said Dr. Valerie Cwik, MDA medical director.
Approximately 1,800 children have attended 33 MDA summer camps in the past month, with another 2,500 scheduled to attend the remaining 47 camps that have now been canceled. An equal number of volunteer counselors also attend each camp.
Out of 1,800 children who’ve attended MDA camps this year, 11 cases of swine flu were reported after the children left camp. Six suspected cases have been reported at the MDA Summer Camp in Worcester, Pa., which ends tomorrow.
One child from the Pennsylvania camp has been hospitalized and is in stable condition. Another child, who attended camp in Utah, was hospitalized, treated and released. In Minnesota, 10 cases of swine flu were reported after camp ended there June 12.
On Friday, MDA conferred with officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, who concurred with the decision to cancel the camps as being “the prudent thing to do” based on the fact that these children are at such high risk for complications from the flu virus.
All children registered for camp as well as camp counselors, medical staff, paramedics and other volunteers are screened for any possible exposure to swine flu, as recommended by the CDC. Some volunteers were turned away based on this screening. However, a person may be infected with the virus and be contagious before actual symptoms appear, according to Cwik.
MDA mobilized its entire staff nationwide today to notify family members and volunteer counselors concerning the decision to cancel the camps.
“We know how much summer camp means to Jerry’s Kids and their families who look forward to this happy week all year long. But with 11 confirmed cases and six suspected cases in three states, we can’t risk the health of the children who would be attending the camps,” said Gerald C. Weinberg, MDA president and CEO. “We have an obligation to the parents of these children to ensure that safety is our top priority.”
The MDA summer camp program began in 1955 with one camp in New Jersey. Today, it serves more than 4,300 children.
MDA is a voluntary health agency working to defeat muscular dystrophy and related diseases through programs of worldwide research, comprehensive services, advocacy and far-reaching professional and public health education.
– MDA –