Flu fear keeps kids out of class

Health, school of­fi­cials try to rally them back


As more and more peo­ple line up to re­ceive their vac­ci­na­tions this week, less and less stu­dents are show­ing up for school. Desks sit empty as the sec­ond wave of the H1N1 virus keeps chil­dren at home.

Last week the East­ern School District, the largest school district in the prov­ince, (122 schools) said they were see­ing the ab­sen­teeism rate spike in both the stu­dent and em­ployee pop­u­la­tion. In some cases over half a school is out. The 27 schools in the West­ern re­gion of the East­ern School District, which in­cludes Trin­ity and Con­cep­tion Bays, are also see­ing a huge de­cline in at­ten­dance. Ac­cord­ing to Mary Tucker, di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the district, as of last Thurs­day (Oct. 29) 14 out of the 27 schools in the Trin­ity/Con­cep­tion Bay area had an ab­sen­teeism rate higher than 20 per cent.

A daily school sum­mary, car­ried out by the School District, also con­firmed 31.65 per cent of stu­dents from one school were ab­sent, 55.67 per cent of stu­dents from an­other school were out and 69.01 per cent of the stu­dent pop­u­la­tion of a third school were miss­ing.

How­ever it ap­pears many of those ab­sent don’t have the H1N1 virus, but are be­ing kept out of school be­cause of fear.

“I’m keep­ing my three chil­dren home from school un­til af­ter they have had the vac­ci­na­tion,” a par­ent from Blake­town told The

Com­pass . “There are a lot of kids sick with this flu and schools are breed­ing grounds. I have to do ev­ery­thing I can to keep mine from catch­ing it.”

Go to school

The high num­ber of stu­dents who are re­port­ing sickness comes as no sur­prise to the prov­ince’s chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer of health, Dr. Faith Stratton. “That’s what we would have ex­pected when we got to this phase of the pan­demic,” said Stratton.

How­ever Dr. Stratton ad­vises against par­ents keep­ing healthy kids at home.

“At least when the chil­dren are in school, we know what’s go­ing on and we can look af­ter them, and we’re keep­ing them out of other places, where they might be at more of an in­creased risk.”

Ford Rice, di­rec­tor of ed­u­ca­tion for the East­ern School District agrees and urges healthy stu-

dents to go to school.

“It’s as im­por­tant as it al­ways was for stu­dents to at­tend school and we are en­cour­ag­ing them to do that,” says Rice.

“Ac­cord­ing to health of­fi­cials the H1N1 virus is a com­mu­nity dis­ease and you can catch it at the mall, in school, home or any­where, so stay­ing home from school when you are healthy makes no sense from our prospec­tive.”

Mass im­mu­niza­tion

Mean­while mass im­mu­niza­tion for the pub­lic, in some ar­eas of Trin­ity Con­cep­tion, be­gan (Nov. 2).

Res­i­dents from the Bay Roberts area can re­ceive their shots from Nov. 2-28 at the gym­na­sium of Amal­ga­mated Academy, while an­other clinic, set for the same date at Carbonear Col­le­giate, is avail­able to peo­ple in that area.

Clin­ics for res­i­dents from the Up­per Trin­ity shore, which also in­cludes the Whit­bourne and Nor­man’s Cove area, will be held at Cres­cent Col­le­giate in Blake­town Nov. 10 to Dec. 1. Vac­ci­na­tions for those from the Lower Trin­ity South shore, (Heart’s De­light to Old Per­li­can) are set for Nov. 2 to 9 at Bac­calieu Col­le­giate in Old Per­li­can .

Holy­rood res­i­dents can re­ceive their shots at Ron­calli High from Nov. 10 - 27.

The clin­ics will be open to the pub­lic Mon­day to Thurs­day 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., Fri­day, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Satur­days 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Peo­ple will not have to book ap­point­ments. The vac­ci­na­tions will be done on a large scale and de­signed to han­dle a large flow of peo­ple.

Move rapidly

To date, there have been eight hos­pi­tal­ized H1N1 in­fluenza cases in this prov­ince.

Stratton says be­cause the Swine Flu is now firmly es­tab­lished in the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion, health labs are spending less time test­ing peo­ple.

“What we’re con­cen­trat­ing on now are the peo­ple who are se­verely sick and the ones who are hos­pi­tal­ized,” she says.

“This means the num­ber of con­firmed cases won’t be as high in com­ing weeks. How­ever that doesn’t mean there is a sig­nif­i­cant de­crease in cases of H1N1 in the prov­ince. Right now we’re only count­ing the ones that get tested, but we know there’s still a lot more peo­ple with it out in the com­mu­nity.”

Dr. Stratton pre­dicts the Swine Flu will move rapidly across the prov­ince in the next few weeks.

“We’re ex­pect­ing this is go­ing to spread very quickly now, once it gets hold,” she said.

Ac­cord­ing to Dr. Stratton most of the H1N1 con­firmed cases are in peo­ple younger than 60 and more women than men are get­ting the dis­ease.

How­ever Dr. Stratton says peo­ple shouldn’t read too much into that.

“Women are more likely to go to the doc­tor, and, there­fore, more likely to be tested,” she says. “That’s why the num­ber is higher among fe­males.”

Mean­while a par­ent from Con­cep­tion Bay feels stu­dents should have been sec­ond in line (af­ter the health care work­ers) to re­ceive the vac­ci­na­tion.

“Every­one knows schools are where most viruses are spread,” he said.

“A child in school comes in con­tact with a lot more peo­ple than the av­er­age per­son does and they are in a con­fined place. The depart­ment of health should have set up mass im­mu­niza­tion in schools for chil­dren whose par­ents want them to have this vac­ci­na­tion. It only makes sense.”

Bill Bow­man/The Com­pass

LONG LINE-UPS - Con­cep­tion Bay North res­i­dents lined up out­side the Health and Com­mu­nity Ser­vices of­fice at the Tay­lor Build­ing in Har­bour Grace last Fri­day morn­ing to take their turn at get­ting H1N1 Flu vac­ci­na­tions.

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