Cases of Type A flu reported at all RE1J school district sites

“I’m not worried about it”

There are now either rumors or confirmed cases of influenza Type A, which is being assumed to be the pandemic H1N1 flu, at every site in the Gunnison RE1J school district.



That includes at least one confirmed case of Type A flu in a “young female” at the Crested Butte Community School, according to Roger Sherman, M.D. But it isn’t a reason to panic.
“I would say we’re mildly concerned about H1N1,” superintendent Jon Nelson says. “I think it’s kind of like the bird flu. A lot of people got worked up about it and if people are cautious and do what they’re supposed to do, I don’t think it should be a real concern.”
Students with any flu-like symptoms are being asked to stay at home until at least 24 hours after their fever breaks naturally, without the aid of medication. District nurse’s aide Jill Peterson says most of the flu cases she has seen have lasted about five days.
Nelson says the district is assuming all Type A influenza cases to be H1N1. There are several reasons for making that assumption, including the $300 cost to take the test and have the illness identified by the state laboratory. The symptoms of H1N1 are also very similar to the symptoms of a normal seasonal flu.
County medical officer Dr. John Tarr says the “latest data shows that 97 percent of cases of rapid test diagnosed influenza A are H1N1 when confirmed with the $300 test.”
“I don’t think it matters if a case is confirmed H1N1,” Nelson says. “We’re not going to pay for [the confirmation] and what we don’t want to have is panic. So we’re putting out the best information we have and treating all cases the same.”
The Centers for Disease Control is telling people to see the doctor for flu-like illness only if they have children under the age of two showing symptoms, are over the age of 65, pregnant, have certain chronic conditions or suffer from a suppressed immune system.
Margaret Wacker, the county’s public health educator, says school absenteeism is also being tracked by the Department of Public Health and is on the rise. She says under normal conditions, about 5 percent of the student population is absent at any time.
But in the week starting October 5, 10 percent of the district’s student’s were absent.
Crested Butte Community School principal Stephanie Niemi says there are plenty of sick kids at the school, and many of them are absent, but not all of them have the flu.
“We’ve had a number of kids sick,” said Niemi. “It’s just that time of the year again. We don’t want to get into whether or not it’s swine flu… but there has been a lot of sickness. So to save time and money we’re assuming all flu cases are H1N1.”
Peterson says there are also cases of strep throat going around that can leave kids with an aching stomach, a sore throat and possibly a fever.
“If it’s the flu, we’re discouraging people from going to doctor. If it’s strep, we’re telling people to definitely go to the doctor. There is a lot going around… a whole lot,” Peterson says. “There is even a really bad respiratory infection with a cold, high fever and body aches.”
But despite all of the illness around the district, Peterson says she isn’t worried about an outbreak of H1N1 any more than Nelson is, and she believes it is, to some degree, hype.
“I’m not worried about it,” she says. “It’s just life as normal.”

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