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No swine flu in SCV schools

Posted: April 29, 2009 10:21 p.m.
Updated: April 30, 2009 4:55 a.m.
There are no confirmed cases of swine flu in the Santa Clarita Valley and in Los Angeles County, local officials said Wednesday.

Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Los Angeles County’s Director of Public Health, said two clusters of patients are being tested for influenza-like symptoms in two Santa Clarita Valley schools. Public Health has not released the names of those schools, citing privacy concerns.

Public Health officials released information Tuesday indicating that the two probable cases being investigated for swine flu included an 11- and a 52-year-old. The two possible cases also included two senior citizens who exhibited flu-like symptoms. Results were expected within four days.

But those cases were not necessarily related to the clusters being investigated in Santa Clarita Valley, Public Health spokeswoman True Pawluk said. She refused to supply information about where those potential cases were found.

Public health officials are following up with each suspected flu outbreak, Fielding said.

“We are testing everyday in our lab and will let you know if anything is confirmed in our testing,” he said.

Following an unusual number of absences at the school, testing found that no students at Castaic Union School District are infected with swine flu, Superintendent James Gibson said Wednesday.

“One hundred percent of the testing came back with no swine flu,” Gibson said, shortly after receiving a call from Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Along with Castaic Union School District, none of the schools in the William S. Hart Union High School District are under investigation for swine flu, said Pat Willett, district spokeswoman.

“There’s no cause to panic. We don’t have any confirmed cases up here,” Willett said.

The Hart district reinforced that message in a ConnectEd phone message to parents.

The situation is similar at Saugus Union School District.

“We have absolutely no reported cases, no suspicions,” Saugus Union superintendent Judy Fish said.

Officials at the Newhall School District sent a ConnectEd message home to parents confirming that no cases of swine flu have been found in district schools, Superintendent Marc Winger said.

Newhall School District checked in with county health officials Wednesday morning and were notified that there are no swine flu-related incidents in district schools, Winger said.

Attendance at Castaic Union School District schools remained “very good” Wednesday, Gibson said.

At Val Verde State Pre-School, 18 of the preschool’s 24 students were out sick on Monday, Gibson said. Some students at Live Oak Elementary School also were reported to be sick, but it was not an unusually high number, he said. Some of the sick students at both schools were siblings, so the higher numbers were not necessarily reason for alarm because colds and flus often move between family members.

Gibson said that none of the cases of illness at either school was the result of swine flu.

The recent illnesses at Val Verde came as Castaic Union School District faced a series of unusually high absences among its elementary schools.

North Lake Elementary School reported 208 absences over a three-day period, he said. Roughly 700 students attend the elementary school.

Students who were out sick experienced flu-like symptoms, he said.

Gibson wasn’t sure whether the clusters of flu-like symptoms the health department is investigating are connected to the school district. Gibson said parents the Val Verde preschool were notified that students were undergoing testing, but at Live Oak, only parents of students being testing were aware of the tests.

“There was no reason to shut down the schools because we had no indication it would be a contagious and dangerous problem to students,” he added.

School officials are required to report an unusual number of absences to county health officials.

Following the report, county health organized clinics allowing students and families at Val Verde and North Lake Elementary to undergo testing.

Results showed that one student had Influenza A, a small number experienced Influenza B and the rest had other conditions such as coughs and colds, he said.

Influenzas A and B are types of influenza that are responsible for seasonal flu epidemics every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Flu symptoms include a usually high fever, headache, dry cough, sore throat and runny nose, according to the center.

Gibson said he didn’t know whether any of the ill students had travelled to Mexico recently.

In Mexico, where the flu is believed to have originated, officials said Wednesday the disease is now confirmed or suspected in 159 deaths and nearly 2,500 illnesses.

Officials at the Castaic district will continue efforts to sanitize bathrooms, desks, doorknobs and other commonly touched items at the schools for at least the next week.

Maintenance crews at Saugus Union performed an extra cleaning at school sites. Sanitizers are also available in school restrooms for students to use, she said.

School officials are continuing their efforts to remind students and staff about proper hygiene, he said.

The district has also increased sanitizing measures at school sites, he said.

As for parents keeping their children home due to concern about swine flu, “We’ve heard sporadic reports of them,” Newhall’s Winger said.

“We have kids who are sick at school every day,” he said.

Keeping kids home from school over fear of swine flu interrupts student education, Winger said.

“We have our state testing coming up within the next two-week window,” he said. “That’s just a critical time of year for us.”

Following the recent health concerns, the Castaic School District and county health will host a flu clinic from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Castaic Middle School library at 28900 Hillcrest Parkway, Castaic. Anyone interested in receiving a spray vaccine is encouraged to call the district to reserve a spot.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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