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Local Schools Report Mixed Impact From Swine Flu

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  • Local Schools Report Mixed Impact From Swine Flu

    Local Schools Report Mixed Impact From Swine Flu
    Districts, Colleges Take Preventive Steps To Reduce Risk

    One week after scores of children stayed home -- many, sick with the flu -- the situation at St. Tammany Parish schools has stabilized somewhat.

    Administrators said they were concerned by the significant increase in absences at the start of the school year.

    "Possibly the swine flu," St. Tammany Schools spokeswoman Meredith Mendez conceded. "Possibly an increase in our enrollment numbers. But we definitely are seeing more students that are absent right now."

    Educators are monitoring the situation at each campus and are keeping vigilant, specifically, for signs of the H1N1 virus.

    "All of our school nurses are well educated in swine flu," Mendez told WDSU News reporter Heath Allen on Tuesday. "They are checking the students and we're just taking every precaution that we can at this point."

    There is an expectation that things will get somewhat worse in the months ahead.

    "As we approach the October and November months, we'll have a regular seasonal flu strain as well to deal with," Regional Medical Director Dr. Parham Jaberi explained. "Whether this H1N1 becomes more severe or not remains to be seen."

    When flu symptoms appear, Jaberi urges parents to keep kids home until they appear free of fever for 24 hours. He said state and federal health officials have plans in place if the flu situation worsens.

    "At this point we are in a mild pandemic, and so they don't recommend shutting down schools," he said. "They feel the benefit to the community and the education of our children outweighs the potential health risk of keeping schools open."

    Here's what some other school districts and universities told us about their experiences with swine flu early in the new school year.

    Louisiana Recovery School District:

    Officials have noted "several reports of absences due to flu-like symptoms," but did not have exact figures available. The district is treating the H1N1 virus like any other strain of flu and is reminding staff and students about precautions that can reduce the spread. Students absent due to the flu are required to show a doctor's note upon their return.

    Jefferson Parish Schools:

    Officials report no increase in absences but acknowledge that could change. The district has about 43,000 students enrolled in 87 schools and believes it is likely the H1N1 virus will impact its operations.

    St. Bernard Parish Schools:

    Officials report no increase in the number of student absences. The district has taken preventive measures, but is prepared for the possible spread of the virus nonetheless. Schools are making sure soap and hot water are available in bathrooms. Pre-school programs have implemented student hand-washing procedures.

    St. Charles Parish Schools:

    Absences are running slightly above normal, according to the district. Westbank schools are at the highest absentee rates. About 15 percent of the student body at Hahnville High School is out sick -- but officials said there is no reason to believe that is entirely due to the flu. Educators are encouraging parents to help ensure their children practice good hygiene.

    Loyola University:

    The school is actively tracking the spread of the flu and has assembled a committee of faculty and staff to assess the situation. The university developed the task force based on experiences in 2007, when the avian flu spread across the globe. Loyola Dining Services is closely monitoring kitchen protocol to reduce the chances of the spread of the flu bug. The Student Health Services division on campus has posted flyers across campus and is making hand sanitizers available at its offices. Loyola will offer vaccinations for seasonal flu strains until the swine flu vaccination is readily available.


    The university has activated its Flu Emergency Task Force and is encouraging those around campus to visit the Staying Healthy website that the Task Force prepared. The site provides practices that minimize the risk posed by H1N1. No H1N1 cases have been confirmed among students, but more than two dozen Tulane football players recently showed mild flu-like symptoms. The players were cleared by a team physician to return to action. Two children who attend the Kidopolis child care center operated by Tulane University were confirmed to have H1N1 flu. Several more children, teachers and administrators exhibited flu-like symptoms.


    The state's flagship university is working to educate students and staff following an outbreak of the Type A flu virus. The Student Health Center is treating those in need of assistance and the school's Emergency Operations Center is monitoring the situation. The university has not changed class schedules or cancelled any official events. Doctors and nurses are recommending that members of the LSU community who contract Influenza A stay at home for 7 days after their symptoms began, or until they have been free of symptoms for 24 hours, whichever is longer.

    University of New Orleans:

    The school reports no increase in the number of sick students, but, like other universities, preventive measures are in place. Seasonal flu shots will be offered on Sept. 16. Officials hope to be able to distribute H1N1 vaccines at a later date.
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