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More schools report flu cases

October 22, 2009
Kylie Saari — Staff Writer

FAIRMONT - Just a week after Fairmont Area Schools reached the reporting threshold for influenza-like illness, other area schools are following suit.

Schools are required to report to the state if 5 percent or more of students are absent and report a fever and sore throat or cough, or if three students from any one classroom report the same.

St. John Vianney, St. Paul's Lutheran in Fairmont, and Martin County West have all reached one of those standards this week.

St. John Vianney sent home a notice to parents Tuesday stating the school was missing 14 percent of its students, not including preschool, and one preschool student was being treated medically for ILI.

By Wednesday, that number was up to 19 percent of the total population.

Gerald Bergt, principal at St. John's Lutheran, said the school has less 10 percent of its students out ill.

Martin County West school nurse Laura Kramer said that while the school has not reached 5 percent of its total, it has reported with three students in one classroom suffering from ILI.

Each school indicated an increase in reported illness this week compared to last week.

While schools are required to report this information, they are not required to do anything specific about it.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends schools determine when and if their buildings should release students because of ILI.

Outbreaks of the H1N1 virus earlier this year resulted in mandatory dismissals of schools in an attempt to contain the spread of illness.

After reviewing results of that plan, the CDC advises schools to weigh the benefit of not having kids in school with the community disruption caused by students left alone at home, or their parents out of work to care for them.

St. John Vianney principal Joan Schaffer said there are no plans to close down the school due to ILI.

"As long as our teachers are healthy and we can find subs, we will keep plugging along," she said, adding that none of the school's teachers have missed class days because of illness.

Students at St. John Vianney have two days to make up work missed from each day absent, so a student gone seven days has 14 days to complete homework.

The CDC recommends that administrators take every opportunity to remind parents to keep children home for 24 hours after their fever is gone without medication.

According to Schaffer, most parents have observed that rule.

Parents also have the option of keeping their healthy students home to avoid getting sick, something Schaffer said some have taken advantage of at St. John Vianney.

Granada-Huntley-East Chain has not had many ILI reports, according to Principal Bob Grant.

"The elementary has had very few (absences)," he said. "The high school has started picking up and I can see us reaching the threshold in a couple of days if this keeps up."

Truman Public Schools have avoided the epidemic so far as well.

"We have had a few (illnesses reported), and a few more today," said Principal Brian Shanks. "But we haven't been anywhere close (to the threshold)."

ILI does not necessarily mean that a student has H1N1, as most students are not being tested or confirmed for the virus. However, anyone reporting both a fever and sore throat or cough is assumed to have an H1N1 infection.



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