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.”
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.
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.”
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.