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Swine flu hits students

By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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The swine flu has made an appearance in Lincoln’s schools but not enough for any of the schools to close. LaShawn Horton, district nurse for Western Placer Unified School District, said that there have been cases of swine flu at all the district’s schools “at some time or another.” Horton said that they are aware of swine-flu cases because some parents told school officials that their children have swine flu. The number of swine-flu cases in the district was unknown because they are not tracking them, according to Scott Leaman, superintendent for the Western Placer Unified School District, on Tuesday. The school district tracks the number of absent students at both the school and district level, and on an average day, 5 to 6 percent of students are absent throughout the district, Leaman added. “We’re asking parents to let us know if it’s the swine flu,” Horton said, adding it is not mandatory. In order for a school to be closed down due to swine flu, Horton, said, 25 to 30 percent of the school’s population would have to be absent from school. If this were the case, according to Horton, Placer County Health and Human Services Health Officer Richard Burton would be notified to see if the school should close. Before the closing of a school is considered, Leaman said, “incremental measures” are taken. One example of an incremental measure occurred earlier this year at Twelve Bridges Middle School, when Leaman said that students did not change into their gym clothes for P.E. class, due to an increase in absent children. This was so students could avoid being in confined spaces, where germs are more easily spread, Leaman explained. Instead of informing parents of swine-flu cases, Leaman said that parents receive a recorded message about the measures taken and ways to prevent it. Leaman said he has already called parents twice this year regarding swine flu. “I think parents have listened because our rates have gone down since,” Leaman said Wednesday morning. The text of the two phone messages is available on the Western Placer Unified School District Web site. “I knew it was in Placer County,” Debbie Livengood said after school on Monday, when asked if she had heard of any swine flu cases in the district. Livengood’s son attends Glen Edwards Middle School. Preventive measures should be taken According to Horton, the symptoms for H1N1 are the “same symptoms of any flu.” “It’s just a different strain of the flu,” she said. Horton said that some of the symptoms of the flu, including swine flu, are a fever, coughing and the chills. She advises parents to keep children home from school if they have flu-like symptoms and a fever greater than 100.1 F. “They have to be fever-free for 24 hours before returning to school,” Horton said. She added that they must be fever-free without the use of fever reducers. Dave Butler, Lincoln High School’s principal, said that his school was treating it like other illnesses by urging sick students to go home. He also suggested that parents try to prevent swine flu like they would any other flu. Horton gave some tips for prevention, such as eating healthy foods, hand-washing and covering the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing. Livengood said that when it comes to flu prevention, she has been reminding her son to “wash his hands and not to share drinks.” Horton also advised that students not share lip gloss and utensils. She said that hand-sanitizing stations have been installed at all of the district’s schools. Stations are in every classroom, with the exception of empty classrooms, according to Leaman. More information for prevention and care of those with swine flu is provided on the Western Placer Unified School District Web site at wpusd.k12.ca.us, in the form of a letter to parents of Placer County from the Placer County Health and Human Services Department.