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San Juan County Health Department: Swine flu case could lead to school closure for seven days

The county Health Department is prepared to close a school for a minimum of seven days if a student or staff member is confirmed to have the H1N1 virus, or swine flu.

School district Superintendent Michael Soltman said today the district has been working closely with the health department and the Department of Emergency Management to develop procedures for communicating information about response to student illness and potential school closures ordered by the health department.

"Dr. Frank James, our San Juan County health officer, has indicated that there are several unconfirmed cases of flu currently in the county," Soltman wrote in an e-mail today. "Generally, it takes 72 hours for the Disease Control Center to confirm a case of swine flu. If a case is confirmed in our county, Dr. James has indicated he will close the affected school for a minimum period of seven days."

Camp Orkila on Orcas Island closed today and 300 children there were sent home after six children and one adult exhibited flu-like symptoms Thursday night, the county Health Department reported today.

Several Seattle-area schools have closed. Odyssey Elementary School in the Mukilteo School District will be closed today, the Everett Herald reported this morning. The decision to close the school was made after learning that a parent of a child who attends the school is one of the suspected cases of swine flu in Snohomish County, the Herald reported. The student has also been ill.

The San Juan Dragons lacrosse team is scheduled to play Mukilteo at Kamiak High School Saturday at 3 p.m.; Dragons Coach Rob Cuomo said today the game was still scheduled.

Soltman said the district is monitoring possible swine flu reports to ensure that any response to Department of Health directives are communicated quickly. "We are also monitoring destinations for our sports teams and scheduled field trips to determine if it is safe to participate. We will cancel any such activities that could place our students in an unsafe situation," Soltman said.

Thursday, the district sent the following letter to families, students and staff members:

As you are aware there have been confirmed cases of Swine Flu reported across the United States in the last few weeks. Our school works closely with local, state, and national health agencies to investigate any illnesses and/or infections. We want to remind parents and staff of the importance of prevention and how to stay safe.

Please remember that students should stay home when they have any of the symptoms listed below.

Symptoms of Swine Flu:
— Fever 100° (or more), cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue.

What You Can Do To Prevent the Spread of Swine Flu:
— Sneeze or cough into your elbow, sleeve or a tissue. Throw the tissue in the trash after use.
— Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are also effective.
— Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs can be spread that way.
— If you are sick, stay home!

For more information on the Swine Flu, please visit the following Web sites: www.cdc.gov/swineflu/mitigation/htm, www.cdc.gov, www.doe.gov, www.doh.wa.gov.

School Policy Regarding Ill Students:
— Students with an oral temperature of 37.8 C (100.0 F) or more, plus a cough and/or sore throat will be sent home from school.
— Students should stay home until they are symptom-free.

Any confirmed cases of Swine Flu will result in schools being closed for a minimum of seven (7) days by the San Juan County Health Department. Notification will be through online press and district Web site. Travel activities (sports and field trips) will be considered on a case by case basis, depending upon destination and recommendations by the Health Department.

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to call the district office, 378-4133.

Sincerely,
Michael Soltman
Superintendent of Schools

RELATED LOCAL STORIES Camp Orkila closed, 300 children sent home as swine flu precaution.

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