Students suspected to have H1N1 flu at Austin Catholic Schools

Published 7:32 am Thursday, October 1, 2009

Austin Catholic Schools officials said Wednesday they believe several students may have the H1N1 flu.

Director Mary Holtorf said they have had many absences in the elementary school in particular. Confirming whether sickness is H1N1 or not is difficult; doctors ask those suspected to have the symptoms to stay home, and it cannot be confirmed without a lab test.

“We’ve been told the seasonal flu has not started yet,” Holtorf said.

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The school nurse has been presenting prevention information to students, and disinfectants are used throughout the schools.

Holtorf said she does not know how many suspected cases are at ACS.

Officials at Austin Public Schools would not confirm whether or not they have had students with H1N1.

Superintendent David Krenz said the absentee rate is not unusual; about 6 percent of students have been absent at the high school. Even fewer students have been absent at the elementaries, at 3 to 4 percent.

“The percentage of our kids gone is about where we would expect on a normal day,” Krenz said Wednesday. “Anything under 10 percent is OK.”

At Riverland Community College, spokesman James Douglass said they may never know how many of their students have it because they do not need to justify absences.

“I haven’t heard of any so far,” Douglass said.

The number of swine flu outbreaks reported in Minnesota schools has doubled in a week to 134, with the heaviest concentration in the seven-county metropolitan area, the Minnesota Department of Health reported Wednesday.

The figures were current as of Saturday. There has been a rapid climb in the number of affected schools from fewer than 10 during the second week of September — when most schools opened — to 67 by Sept. 19 and 134 by last weekend.

Kristen Ehresmann, director of the Infectious Disease, Epidemiology and Control Division for the Minnesota Department of Health, said the skyrocketing number of outbreaks was expected and will probably continue.

“We sort have been anticipating this,” she said. “The longer kids are in school the greater the opportunity for exponential growth” in outbreaks.

More than 300 people in Minnesota have been hospitalized with the swine flu since May. Three have died. Children age 5 to 18 have accounted for nearly 40 percent of the confirmed cases, according to the Health Department, followed by adults age 25 to 49.

Health Department spokesman Buddy Ferguson said officials expect to get the first doses of swine flu vaccine in the state in “a week or two.”

Symptoms of H1N1 novel flu include a fever above 100 degrees, cough, sore throat, stuffy nose and in some cases, diarrhea or vomiting. The Department of Health recommends staying home and avoiding contact with others, and treating the symptoms as you would with seasonal flu.