Ascension swine flu confirmed

Wade McIntyre

Attendance at Lake School tapered off below average Monday after a student was confirmed to have the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, by the Office of Public Health Sunday.

The student, a 10-year-old male, went home from school on April 27, and was absent from school the remainder of the week, Ascension Parish school officials said.

The child has been symptom-free for at least two days, but will remain out of school until cleared by the OPH for return.

About 200 kids were absent from the school population of 1,100 kids Monday, School Board Public Information Officer Johnny Balfantz said.

Normal absenteeism is about 50 to 75 kids, he said.

“It’s more than an average day, but not too bad,” he said.

Severe weather thunderstorms and high wind warnings in the parish early Monday may have also contributed to some students not attending school, he said.

As of Sunday, the Lake incident has not been linked to Mexico by state epidemiologists investigating the case.

OPH has no other evidence students experiencing flu-like symptoms at Lake. School officials are following OHP advice and are keeping the school open.

Epidemiologists continue to work with schools and families in Ascension to help prevent the spread of the virus, the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness said in a release.

The Lake student is one of seven case confirmed in Louisiana as of Sunday. There were five cases in Lafayette Parish and one in Orleans Parish.

A Negative test for H1N1 was reported in St. Tammany Parish, and for St. Martin Parish.

A professional cleaning company with expertise in hospital-type applications cleaned Lake School Sunday afternoon.

Three nurses will be at the school to monitor students and provide support to students and members of the school staff as needed, Balfantz said.

“Normally we have just one nurse, but just to make sure we’re following health department guidelines we have three nurses at the school now,” he said.

The school board mission is to keep students safe, and officials will respond if any changes arise, he said.

Officials reminded parents that students should stay home when they have fever symptoms, including temperature of 100 degrees or higher, vomiting, diarrhea, blistery rash, heavy nasal congestion or frequent cough.

Children should also stay home if they have been diagnosed with a contagious disease.

Health suggestions offered by officials dealing with the virus include:

• Cover nose and mouth with tissue when coughing or sneezing, then throw the tissue in the trash.

• Wash hands often with soap and water, and especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol -based hand cleaners may also be used with effectiveness.

• Avoid close contact when around sick people.

• Persons who get influenza should stay home and reduce contact with others to avoid infecting them. If you have the flu, do not touch your eyes , nose or mouth to reduce the spread of germs.