Flu begins infiltrating some Carlton County schoolsLast Thursday, parents of Esko school children received a communication through the district’s “instant alert” system, informing them that three families in the district have reported children who are “likely to have the H1N1 virus,” according to Superintendent Aaron Fischer.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Last Thursday, parents of Esko school children received a communication through the district’s “instant alert” system, informing them that three families in the district have reported children who are “likely to have the H1N1 virus,” according to Superintendent Aaron Fischer.
“If parents call in and tell us their children are experiencing symptoms of what could be the swine flu,” said Fischer, “we are going to treat it that way.”
Fischer said a meeting of the district’s administrative team was held at the end of last week to alert them of the possibility that the H1N1 virus may be taking a foothold in the student population, and all district families were informed via phone calls, e-mails and a parent letter. He said school custodians were also instructed to thoroughly clean and disinfect classrooms where the ill students attended before coming down with the flu – two in the junior high and one in the elementary school.
Sarah Ellena, Cloquet School District nurse, reported this week that Cloquet schools are likewise experiencing a growing absence rate of students and staff members reporting flu-like illnesses.
“We are nearing the threshold of 5 percent of the students in most of the buildings, at which point we are mandated to report in to the State Department of Health,” said Ellena. “It is definitely hitting us in a significant way, and we’ve already begun to hammer down all precautions we can.”
Ellena said students and staff are being reminded on a daily basis of proper hand washing procedures, particularly at the elementary level, as well as the need to “cover their cough” and stay home for at least 24 hours following the abatement of a fever without the help of medication.
“Most parents have been pretty proactive [in helping control the virus] by letting the school know when their children are absent due to flu-like symptoms.”
She said staff absences have “kept all of us scrambling” as well, though they haven’t been impacted as significantly as the students.
On the other hand, Carlton Superintendent Scott Hoch reported the absentee rates in the Carlton schools are not any higher than usual for this time of year, though a letter has been sent home to parents and posted on the district Web site listing the precautions to be taken to prevent and/or control the spread of the virus.
Though Barnum School Nurse Cathy Mattei said there are “quite a few” students home with influenza-like illnesses in both of the district’s schools, she added, “We really are not seeing a widespread outbreak just yet in this area.”
On another note, she reminded parents that this time of the year is also when the schools start seeing students with strep throat infections and urged them not to overlook that possibility when treating a sick child.
Moose Lake, Cromwell and Wrenshall all report they have not seen any significant upswing in absences at this point in the school year. Information for the Fond du Lac Ojibwe School was not available at this time.
Terri Allen of Carlton County Public Health said the county has been gearing up for the arrival H1N1 vaccine in October and will follow its mass dispensing plan by holding community clinics at Cloquet and Barnum high schools.
“We are open to holding them in other communities as well, depending on when and how much vaccine is received.”