CAMP SHELBY, MS (WDAM) - A weekend graduation ceremony for the latest class of the Youth Challenge Program at Camp Shelby was held early this morning instead of Saturday, because 2 of the cadets were diagnosed with swine flu.
The graduation exercise for Class 30 of Youth Challenge took place at the Camp Shelby parade field this morning, rather than the Forrest County Multi-Purpose Facility. Camp Shelby and State Health Department officials agreed an early, outdoor ceremony would be best, after 2 cadets tested positive for the H1N1 Virus earlier this week.
Youth Challenge officials say the students most likely contracted the virus while they were in Maryland last week, for a Youth Challenge competition featuring other challenge programs from around the country. Youth Challenge officials say several more cadets that made that trip are exhibiting symptoms of the disease and are being monitored by State Health Department officials.
"This flu in our experience, what little we've had, has been very mild," said Lt. Colonel Steven W. McCoy, deputy director for the Youth Challenge Program. "They (the cadets with confirmed cases) do run fever, sniffles, sneezing, some coughing, but that's been the extent of it. All of the cadets that participated in the trip and became symptomatic were treated with Tamiflu and Amantadine, 2 different medications that are prescribed for the flu and they are responding well to treatment," Lt. Colonel McCoy said.
Lt. Colonel McCoy said the students with confirmed cases and those with suspected cases were not allowed to participate in today's ceremony. He said however, that they would receive their graduation certificates. He also said parents were not allowed to attend.
"It was important that (the unaffected cadets) have a graduation," Lt. Colonel McCoy said. "That gives them a sense of completion and closure to the 22 weeks that they spend here. We had an opportunity to modify it and still have a graduation ceremony for them. It's unfortunate that the families could not be here to experience it with them on site because of the health concerns, but with the DVD that we're providing to each of the families, they will still be able to cherish the memory of this day for their son or daughter," Lt. Colonel McCoy said.
As for the cadets that did participate, it was thumbs up and all smiles for the most part, even with the threat of swine flu all around.
"Well, it kind of scares me, but other than that, these things happen I guess," said Elizabeth Gamblin, a Youth Challenge graduate. Another graduate said he wasn't that concerned about contracting the disease. "They keep us very quarantined away from it, so we're all good," said Gary Sullivan of Mize. "I just hope it doesn't spread and the people that have it, I hope they heal up real quick," said Oscar Lindsey, another Youth Challenge graduate from Jackson.
Lt. Colonel McCoy said the cadets with confirmed cases of flu and those with suspected cases were released to their parents Thursday night. He said all the remaining cadets were allowed to go home after the ceremony. He says the State Health Department will continue to monitor the situation.