The Oregon City Schools District is urging parents and students to follow simple procedures in trying to prevent, and treat swine flu, just as they would any flu.
Two students at Fassett Middle School, a sixth grader and eighth grader, are the first confirmed cases of swine flu in the district.
Superintendent Dr. Mike Zalar said a parent of one of the students with the virus contacted the administration on Sept. 18 to disclose the illness.
He’s fielded “quite a few calls” from parents since then.
“The majority of the community is reasonable and understands,” he said. “We try to address those concerns and reassure them our buildings are clean and safe. If their kids are not sick, they should be sending them to school.”
A forum on swine flu, also known as H1N1, was held at Clay High School last Wednesday to address concerns about the illness. Zalar, along with Lucas County Health Commissioner Dr. David Grossman, and school nurse Cherie Sexton answered questions from the audience.
Anyone who has the flu at this time of year has the H1N1 virus because it’s too early for seasonal flu, said Zalar.
The district has been proactive in taking steps to prevent the spread of the flu, including an educational campaign that emphasizes hand washing, the recognition of signs and symptoms of the flu, and how to respond in case of illness. The district has also initiated cleaning measures in the classrooms and buildings and are working with the county health department to monitor the flu outbreak.
“We know there are going to be more kids who are going to get the flu,” Zalar told The Press. “It’s just going to happen. But we’re in close communication with the health department. If we see those numbers spiking, we’ll inform the health department and act upon their recommendations. The health department doesn’t close schools. It’s a district decision whether we remain open or not. The schools will remain open.”
Zalar said there is “no magic number” of flu cases that would determine when to close a school.
“The need to close a school would probably come from having too many staff members sick, and we couldn’t provide substitutes or cover adequate supervision for the kids rather than having so many students out with the virus,” said Zalar. “We don’t anticipate that happening.”
Oregon School Board President Jeff Ziviski said the district is taking extra measures to ensure the district facilities are clean.
“Our maintenance staff at each school, especially Fassett, has done an excellent job making sure the buildings and buses are clean and disinfected each night. We have been in contact with the county health department and they have assured us that we are taking all the right precautionary measures, providing the correct educational information. In fact, we are exceeding the recommended guidelines for school cleaning on a daily basis."
The district has been open and transparent in its communications with staff, students and parents while balancing the privacy of individual students and their families, he said.
“We have sent several letters home over the past three weeks. The first letter was an informational piece that described what precautions the district is taking and listed the systems for parents to look out for. The other two letters went home after each case was diagnosed at Fassett. Additionally, we have information on our Web site about H1N1 such as signs and symptoms. In fact, the first child that was diagnosed with H1N1, the parent had seen the information on our Web site and kept the child home. That child was not in school for an entire week before it was a confirmed case of H1N1."
Visit the district’s Web site www.oregoncityschools.org to learn more about precautionary measures against the swine flu.