Whitesburg KY
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Threat of swine flu closes school here

Classes remained canceled today (Wednesday) at one Letcher County elementary school as health and school officials are waiting to learn the test results of a student who may have contracted the H1N1 flu, commonly referred to as swine flu.

“I am going to be cautious for kids,” said Letcher Schools Supt. Anna Craft. “It’s better to have healthy kids in a good, safe environment. To err on the side of caution, I thought it would be better to close down.”

Craft said classes were canceled at Martha Jane Potter Elementary School August 18 and 19 as a “precautionary measure” after a mother notified Craft on Monday that her child was diagnosed with H1N1 flu. She said a physician confirmed the diagnosis and the child has been hospitalized.

Craft said the child became sick August 14 and was not in school August 17. She said test samples have been sent to a laboratory in Frankfort for analysis and results will not become available until sometime today.

Craft said another parent notified school officials of a child that possibly had H1N1 but it was determined the child had strep throat.

MJP Principal Linda Hall said several students at the Kona school, with an enrollment of about 400, have been sent home with strep throat. Hall said if a student has a fever at school, parents are being asked to pick the student up from school.

“If they are coming to school with the flu, other kids are going to get it,” said Hall. “Until it is safe to have them at school we will keep them at home.”

Craft said 16 students were reported sick at MJP on August 17.

“It could be a gamut of things,” said Sheila Hogan, lead nurse at the Letcher County Health Department. “It doesn’t necessarily mean the flu.”

Hall said she can’t find a common factor between students at MJP who became ill. She said they live in different areas, don’t have classes together and aren’t in the same friendship circles.

Hall said the school has been thoroughly cleaned multiple times.

“Every doorknob is cleaned, every door, every desk, computer keys,” said Hall.

Hogan said everyone needs to remember to follow good handwashing procedures.

“With kids, most of them probably don’t wash their hands real good,” said Hogan. “They need to be encouraged to wash their hands for 20 seconds. They can sing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song twice.”

Hogan said people should cover their mouths with a handkerchief or tissue before coughing or sneezing. People can also protect others by coughing into the crease of their elbows.

Hogan said symptoms of the H1N1 virus include a fever of 100.4, chills, muscle aches, cough, headache, sore throat, tiredness and weakness. She said abdominal pains, diarrhea and vomiting may also be a part of it.

Hogan said people should definitely see a physician if they experience difficulty breathing, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen. Sudden dizziness, confusion or persistent vomiting is also a reason to see a doctor.

“The best interest of students in that community is to close school and re-evaluate it on Wednesday,” said Craft. MJP is not the only school in the state that canceled classes this week because students became ill with flu-like symptoms. Junction City Elementary School in Boyle County is closed for the remainder of the week.

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