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Breaking NewsSchool officials believe student has swine flu

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Cleveland says no test results yet but illness appears to be swine flu

By John Whitlock

The Owen County School District is issuing a letter today, indicating a student at Maurice Bowling Middle School may have contracted the H1N1, commonly known as swine flu.

Owen County School Superintendent Mark Cleveland said Wednesday the middle-school student has the symptoms of the virus, but no formal test results have been received.

Cleveland said the Center for Disease Control is backed up with many other possible swine flu tests and he has been advised to treat the illness as an incident of swine flu.

"Basically their attitude is if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck," Cleveland said.

Cleveland had been preparing a memo to parents, indicating there had been no cases of swine flu in the district.

Wednesday, Cleveland's plans changed.

The memo that was sent home Wednesday with students outlines some of the precautions students and parents should take.

The sick student has not been in school since Friday, and Cleveland has not reported any further cases.

Below is the text of the letter sent home to parents Wednesday:

September 9, 2009

Dear Parent or Guardian:

By now, you have probably noticed daily news stories about H1N1 (swine flu) that is on the rise in the United States as we enter the fall season.  Likewise it has been reported that some of the surrounding counties have identified their first case of the H1N1 strain. We wanted to let you know that yesterday we received notice of a probable case at Bowling Middle School based upon a positive Type A Novel Influenza result.  This is not a confirmed case, but is being treated as such by both the health department and the school system.  At the present time, with the information known, symptoms of H1N1 influenza should be treated the same asseasonal influenza. 

People with influenza-like illnesses (ILI) can shed the virus and be contagious for more than 24 hours after fever goes away. Definitely keep your child at home for treatment and observation if he or she has any of these symptoms:

• fever (greater than 100 degrees by mouth; your child should remain at home for at least 24 hours after he or she is free of fever or feverishness without the use of fever-reducing medications)

• vomiting (even once)

• diarrhea

• chills

• general tiredness or feelings of fatigue, discomfort, weakness or muscle aches

• frequent congested (wet) or croupy, dry cough

• lots of nasal congestion with frequent blowing of nose

• sore throat

• trouble breathing

If your child has any of the above symptoms, you should talk to your health care provider by telephone. Your health care provider will determine whether testing or treatment is needed. 

To help prevent the spread of influenza, teach your family good hygiene habits:

• Wash hands frequently for 20 seconds or the length of the “Happy Birthday” song twice.

• Do not touch eyes, nose or mouth.

• It is not necessary to disinfect beyond routine cleaning.

• Regularly clean areas and items likely to have frequent hand contact.

• Cover mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing with paper tissue or use bend of elbow. Discard tissues immediately after each use and then wash hands.

• Do not share eating utensils, drink from the same cup or share toothbrushes.

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

• Use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not accessible (Use 1/2 teaspoon or nickel-size equivalent. Parents may purchase travel-size hand sanitizer for students to bring to school.)

Often, when a child awakens with vague complaints (the way colds and flu begin), it is wise to observe your child at home for an hour or two before deciding whether or not he/she should go to school. Influenza is most contagious during the first 48 hours. Your child should be physically able to participate in all school activities on return to school. Keeping a sick child at home will help minimize the spread of infections and viruses in the classroom. You also should limit other siblings of all ages from further contact with the child who has the prescribed symptoms. Limiting attendance to other social gatherings (outside of school) also will be helpful in decreasing risk of exposure to the virus. Contact your health care provider for advice on your child’s condition.

If your child has the signs and symptoms mentioned previously, please indicate this to the attendance office staff or leave a message on the recording message for absentees. This information will help in working with the local health department to identify and assist families with resources for possible cases of influenza.

Rest assured that Owen County Schools are taking steps to minimize any exposure to the H1N1 virus.  That includes reading all the “tons” of information that is coming out from federal, state and local levels; participating in webinars on the topic; taking extra steps to clean desks, door handles, and items that students and staff touch.  Custodians are even spraying locker handles and locks each night.  Our intent is to minimize as much as we can but we really need your help in taking the steps mentioned above.  Asyou may know, flu can be easily spread from person to person.  Therefore, we are taking steps to reduce the spread of flu at our schools.  At this point, we are working closely with the health department and following the CDC guidelines that are continually monitored for the spread of flu, the severity of the illness it is causing, and whether the virus is changing.  Authorities feel at this time we can remain open and function in a normal manner. 

Any changes in the above information will be sent to you from your school administrative office. 

Sincerely,

Mark W. Cleveland, Superintendent

Karen Wash, District Health Nurse