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Swine flu spreading in schools

Butler County schools officials are seeing an increase in the number of influenza cases and multiple number of absences as the H1N1 virus continues to spread across Alabama.

According to lead nurse Ada Sue Thompson schools in the northern part of the county are seeing the most number of flu cases. Southern schools, namely Butler County Magnet School and McKenzie School, have been generally unaffected, but that’s expected to change.

“Likely if you have any symptoms of the flu, then you probably have H1N1,” said Thompson.

Because regular flu season usually starts to peak in November, health officials have generally determined that flu symptoms in August generally means a person has been infected by the H1N1 virus, or swine flu. The new strain of influenza was discovered in April 2009.

Superintendent Mike Looney wished to reiterate to the public that the school district is being proactive in dealing with the evolving issue.

“We’re doing everything we can do,” said Looney.

At least 85 students were absent from W.O. Parmer Elementary School on Wednesday, said Looney. Looney said nurses would begin taking the temperature of students who enter W.O. Parmer and Greenville Elementary. Anyone with a high fever would be sent home, he said.

Also, buses and desks are being sanitized frequently with a Clorox solution, said Looney.

The important thing is to remember good hygiene, said Thompson.

“Wash your hands and cover your cough with a tissue,” said Thompson.

By October, 600,000 courses of novel H1N1 vaccine are expected to be shipped to Alabama, followed by an additional 300,000 doses every two weeks, the Alabama Department of Public Health said on Friday. By December, two million doses of vaccine are expected. Plans now call for two novel H1N1 shots to be administered. Currently, the novel H1N1 attack rate for children and young adults (ages four to 24) is higher than for all other age groups, but the hospitalization rate for children under age four is the highest.