Flu spares pockets of NorthlandEven while Minnesota reports widespread flu activity, some area schools seem to have escaped an outbreak of the H1N1 virus so far.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
Even while Minnesota reports widespread flu activity, some area schools seem to have escaped an outbreak of the H1N1 virus so far.
Superior, Hermantown and Cloquet school districts still appeared Thursday to be free of the illness.
Meanwhile, Proctor has reported more than 30 cases since school began last week, Two Harbors is up to 12, and Duluth had 26 students out with flu-like symptoms Wednesday and Thursday. The Duluth district is working to tally its cases for the new school year.
The state requires districts to track daily absences, so if a district’s flu absentee rate exceeds 5 percent of enrollment, it must be reported to the Minnesota Department of Health, said Katie Kaufman, Duluth public schools spokeswoman.
At the college level, the University of Minnesota Duluth now has 75 students reporting flu-like symptoms; the College of St. Scholastica has 42 and the University of Wisconsin-Superior has eight.
UMD spokeswoman Susan Latto said the number there has been steadily increasing through the week.
The Minnesota Department of Health released new recommendations Thursday for handling the flu in child care settings and early education programs that serve children younger than 5. The department advises parents to keep kids with flu symptoms home for seven days after the symptoms appeared, or 24 hours after they go away, whichever is longer.
That is a longer recommended time at home than for older children, who are asked to return to school 24 hours after their fever is gone without the use of medicine, if they feel well enough.
That under-5 age group is in the at-risk group, said Curt Conrad, coordinator of health, safety and environmental management for the Duluth school district. The district plans to follow the new recommendation. Two Harbors, Proctor and Hermantown schools said they probably will.
The under-5 age group is vulnerable because prevention at that age is more difficult, Dr. Ruth Lynfield, Minnesota state epidemiologist, said in a news release.
“For a young child, it can be difficult to control a runny nose and to cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing,” she said, noting that children put shared toys in their mouths and don’t wash hands as often.
The department of health is recommending that preschool-age children be vaccinated against both H1N1 when the vaccine is released, and seasonal flu. In Minnesota, children younger than 5 have been hospitalized with the H1N1 virus at twice the rate of children ages 5-12.
The “widespread” classification comes from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria and means that cases of flu have been reported in at least half of the state’s regions.