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Swine flu in N. Illinois

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PostSubject: Swine flu in N. Illinois   Mon May 04, 2009 9:01 pm

Two area school districts have closed as precautionary measures after probable swine flu cases have surfaced.

The Kinnikinnick School District in the Roscoe area will become the
first in Winnebago County to close its four schools for at least seven
days starting today after a child in the district has an unconfirmed
but probable case of the H1N1 virus, known as swine flu.

In Boone County, the Belvidere district decided on Friday to close starting today.

Kinnikinnick Superintendent Bob Lauber and Mike Bacon, public health
director for the Winnebago County Health Department, made the
announcement Sunday.Key dates in the swine flu outbreak

April 24: Mexico confirms 20 deaths from swine flu and
at least 943 were sick from the suspected flu. That number has since
been revised down.

April 26: The number of confirmed cases in the U.S. climbs to 20 in five states.

April 27: The World Health Organization raises its
pandemic alert status to Phase 4, meaning there is sustained
human-to-human transmission of the virus causing outbreaks in at least
one country.

Tuesday: Students in the Rockford School District
receive letters to bring home explaining swine flu, its symptoms and
preventive measures.

Wednesday: The Winnebago County Health Department
opened a Swine-origin Influenza A hot line, 815-720-4242. It will be
open initially from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays.

Friday: Belvidere School District closes all 12 schools after a person affiliated with it is has a probable diagnosis of H1N1.

Sunday: Kinnikinnick district cancels school after a
child is determined to have a probable diagnosis of H1N1; three
confirmed cases of H1N1 in Illinois.

— The Associated Press and Register Star archives

“We reached a joint decision that we need to be very cautious at
this point in the early days of this outbreak so that we do put in
place all that is necessary to minimize the spread of this problem in
our community and surrounding areas,” Bacon said.

Lauber said he made the decision Sunday to close the district’s schools until further notice.

“Obviously this decision isn’t made lightly,” he said. “Missing school
and closing school is something done only in an emergency or in a
pre-emptive way to prevent the spread of this influenza.”

The Belvidere School District closed its 12 schools after a probable,
but not yet confirmed case, arose from a non-Boone County resident.

Belvidere Superintendent Mike Houselog said the district will make decisions about future closures on a day-by-day basis.

“Right now we’re just going to take it a day at a time until we get
some confirmation back from the CDC,” he said. “We’re encouraging
parents to have a plan, regardless of what it is, to have a plan is the
big thing.”

Further testing is being done to determine if the case is swine flu,
Boone County Assistant Public Health Administrator Stephanie Seaworth.

“I’m hoping that we have results in the next day from the CDC, so we know what we’re dealing with,” she said.

Schools close to limit the exposure of children to the illness. In a
school, a child might be exposed to 500 people, Seaworth said. Just by
keeping them at home where they’re exposed to only a handful of people
reduces their risk.

“It’s going to be a parental prerogative for parents on how they police their own children,” she said.

According to the Winnebago County Health Department, there are two
probable cases of swine flu in the county. The first was announced

“The Kinnikinnick student is a probable case yet to be confirmed by more specific testing by CDC,” Bacon explained.

Parents react

Tanya McCray is the mother of three children ranging in age from 9 to
13. She’s thought about what she could do to safeguard her children
from the H1N1 virus if it showed up in Rockford schools.

“I wouldn’t know what to do,” she said. “I would probably keep them home.”

Barb Pfluger-Fey, mother of six and a religion teacher at Boylan
Catholic High School, took a trip to Logli Supermarket on Rockton
Avenue on Sunday with her 14-year-old daughter, Grace Fey. Pfluger-Fey
hopes the fuss over the swine flu will pass.

“Let it pass, let it just be,” she said. “I think it’s good practice,
but there’s too much precaution. It’s good in the long run, if it came
up again, we’d know what to do, but it’s too much.”

If patients are worried about their health, they should contact their
physician for guidance, Dr. Kathleen Kelly, chief medical officer at
SwedishAmerican Hospital said.

Kelly warned that if parents have sick children, they should exercise
caution and find proper child care and avoid sending them to day care
facilities and schools where other children could be exposed.

“Clearly you want to minimize contact with healthy people to minimize
infection,” she said. “This does pose a practical problem for working
parents. You don’t really want to cohort children with other sick
children because they may not have the same infection. This is a major
inconvenience, I know, for working parents. Healthy children certainly
could be kept together, but ill children should be segregated from
healthy children whenever possible.”

Open schools
Hononegah High School in Rockton is prepared should a health emergency
present itself to the school, said School Board President Dave

“We’ve got a plan in place in case there is any kind of pandemic,”
Kurlinkus said. “My understanding is that the initial communication
comes from the county health department to our superintendent. I
checked with them and there are no reported cases or suspected cases.
We’ve got a plan for it.”

The school was in the process of sending out an e-mail and phone
message to parents to inform them that unless something changed
drastically, students would be in session for the school week.

At Prairie Hill School District, notifications that school would be in
session were also sent out Sunday, School Board President TJ Larsen

“(Superintendent) Rehl just sent a mass message out to Prairie Hill
parents to let them know we are not closing,” Larsen said. “The school
has a plan, we have the health department guidelines and would go by
the CDC recommendations. We have not had any cases at Prairie Hill. We
trust the administration is doing everything to the best interest of
our students.”

At South Beloit High School, discussions regarding what to do if it is
affected by the virus could come in the early morning hours, Principal
Matt Vosberg said.

“We haven’t had a lot of discussion on it since most of the issues have
surfaced over the weekend, but we have a meeting first thing (this
morning) and will likely talk about it then,” he said.

President of the Rockford School Board Dave Kelley said Rockford Schools aren’t alarmed, but are ready.

“There’s no reason to close the school. You’ll close the school once
they get a case. A letter went out to parents. That suffices until we
know we have something more to deal with,” Kelley said. “Overreacting
is not a good thing to do. There’s not been a case in the Rockford
school system; therefore, there has been no reason to close any

Sandi Johnson, president of the Harlem Board of Education, said that as of Sunday evening school is still on.

“I am second on the phone tree, so I imagine as soon as Dr. (Julie)
Morris hears anything, then I would. So far, there’s been no call,” she
Fliers being posted
Beginning today area clinics and hospitals will post fliers to help patients with swine flu-like symptoms navigate care.

The fliers will tell people who have active respiratory symptoms like a
cough, sore throat or fever to put on a mask that will be provided for
them. They also will have directions such as cover your mouth and stay
home if you are symptomatic.
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