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No H1N1 cases reported in 833 schools, officials say

No cases of H1N1 flu have been reported in School District 833, but flu and colds caused an increase in absences last week, according to Scott Brownell, district safety and emergency planning manager.

On Tuesday, Sept. 24, Oltman and Cottage Grove middle schools and Cottage Grove and Hillside elementary schools reported high numbers of absences due to flu and colds.

If absences are 5 percent of a school's population, or more than three students in one classroom are absent due to flu on one day, it must be reported to the Minnesota Department of Education, Brownell said.

It's not unusual to have three students absent in one classroom at one time, he said, due to flu this time of year.

School nurses and health aides report the number of absences on a daily basis to Judy Belland, Woodbury High School lead nurse, Brownell said.

As of Friday, Sept. 25, the number of flu cases being reported did not reach the level of making a state report, as was the case earlier in the week, he said.

Hillside Principal Erin Shadick said the number of absences were down as of Friday. "Parents are doing what we've asked them to do," she said.

Parents were told by the district to keep sick children at home until they have a normal temperature without the use of fever-reducing medicine.

There could be cases of H1N1 that are undiagnosed because testing is usually done in cases where people are hospitalized and lab cultures are done, Brownell said. Local clinics use another test, but it's only accurate half the time.

Flu cases being reported have the same symptoms of fevers, aches, stuffy noses and coughing, as does H1N1. "Flu is flu," he said.

Though the use of hand sanitizers in schools is up, Brownell said teachers and staff members are still emphasizing hand-washing as a way to prevent spreading infections.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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