05/06/2009: "Update: Swine Flu School Closing Policy"
Press Release: In a letter to other health officials,** County Health Officer Dr. Frank James reported today that as of this morning there is only one “suspected” case of Swine Flu (H1N1 influenza virus) currently in San Juan County, in addition to 9 others which were among 276 middle school students from Bellevue who spent two days at a camp on Orcas Island last week before influenza like symptoms appeared. Those students and 36 other children from Richland were returned home last Friday.
The remaining suspected case of influenza was identified Monday in an elementary school student at the Salmonberry School on Orcas. After consultation with Dr. James, school officials chose to temporary close the school as a precaution and review the situation this coming weekend.
After a meeting and conference call with school administrators, child care and camp staff, on Monday afternoon, Dr. James announced a policy on school. At this time, when a case of influenza is diagnosed in a student the policy calls for the school to close for 7 days. James said he feels this precaution is appropriate at this time given our limited knowledge of this new and unique virus. While most case appear mild, nationwide at least 30 cases have been severe enough to require hospitalization and internationally several deaths have been attributed to the virus, so it cannot be taken lightly.
School closures are designed to slow the spread of disease in the community by increasing “social distancing.” School classrooms bring children in close proximity and can be ideal places for the spread of this type of disease. James notes that that the swine flu appears to be infecting children and young people at a much higher rate than older people.
Dr. James said that the policy will be reviewed regularly with school officials as more information on the disease is discovered. Citizens should be aware that while there is no vaccine against this virus; however anti-viral medicines, such as Tamiflu™ have proven effective in relieving the symptoms. County Health officials say that adequate supplies of the medicines have been stockpiled San Juan County and are available to be prescribed for treatment by local health care providers as appropriate.
The full text of Dr. James letter is available on-line at: http://sanjuanco.com/health/info.aspx