Nearly 400 ASD kids out with H1N1 symptoms

Nearly 400 Ashland students — 13 percent of the district — missed school because of H1N1 symptoms in the seven days ending Thursday, attendance records show.

The number of Ashland students missing school due to flu symptoms has continued to climb in the past two weeks, particularly at Walker Elementary School and Ashland middle and high schools.

"We have been in touch with the (Jackson County) Department of Health and so far they have not advised us to close any schools, so that's good news," Samuel Bogdanov, the district's director of student services said Friday afternoon.

Attendance secretaries are recording when students are absent due to flu symptoms. Because it is too early in the year for much seasonal influenza to be circulating, health officials are assuming that anyone with flu symptoms likely has the H1N1 virus, known as swine flu, Bogdanov said.

According to attendance records, 386 students missed school due to flu symptoms in the seven days ending Thursday. That's 77 percent more than in the previous seven days.

During the seven days ending Thursday, 291 new suspected flu cases were reported in the district.

The number of students with the flu could be higher than those number suggest, Bogdanov said, because a significant number of students were also absent for unknown reasons during that time period.

"We had a large number of unexcused absences that we assume were due to illness," Bogdanov said.

At the high school, 116 students were absent with flu symptoms, but an additional 109 were absent for unknown reasons, he said.

"That's a 20 percent absentee rate," he said.

High school officials decided to cancel Friday's football games and Saturday's homecoming dance due to the high number of students with the H1N1 virus.

"It was decided that the kids should be home and resting and getting well," Bogdanov said.

At the middle school, 21 percent of the student body was absent due to flu symptoms. Bellview, Helman and Walker elementary schools recorded between 10 and 15 percent of their student bodies out sick due to flu symptoms.

District administrators are hoping the number of students with H1N1 symptoms will begin to decrease next week, Bogdanov said.

"We're hoping this week will be our peak," he said.

The district expects to receive the H1N1 vaccine in about four weeks, at which time it will be available to students and at-risk staff members.

In the meantime, school officials are relying on what Bogdanov calls "the new sacrament" — antibacterial hand sanitizer — and are reminding students to cover their coughs and stay home if they're sick.

"We're hopeful that it will start tapering off after this," Bogdanov said.

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.

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