At least two swine flu cases in Garfield County schools |

At least two swine flu cases in Garfield County schools

Garfield County and local school district officials are on heightened alert after at least two cases of 2009 H1N1 influenza were reported at high schools in Glenwood Springs and Carbondale this week.

Meanwhile, the death of a 13-year-old Summit County High School student Wednesday was believed to be flu-related. (See story, page A4).

Roaring Fork School District Re-1 Superintendent Judy Haptonstall said Wednesday that the district has two official cases of H1N1, involving students at Glenwood Springs High School and Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale.

And it’s very likely those aren’t the only cases, she said.

Roaring Fork High in particular has had a large number of student absences the past two weeks due to a variety of illnesses, from common colds and strep to flu, Haptonstall said.

“We are taking all the precautions we can to try to prevent the spread of whatever is going around,” she advised Re-1 school board members at their Wednesday meeting.

That includes sending letters home to parents and posting information on the district website about preventative measures, treatment for those who experience flu-like symptoms and other precautions. Custodial staff in the district has also been advised to make sure railings, door knobs, school buses and other surfaces where there is a lot of contact are kept clean.

“We do have lots of kids out sick this week,” said Deborah Schoeberlein, executive director of the Roaring Fork School Health Centers, who is also the district’s point person regarding flu information.

“Because we are not doing our own surveillance we have no way of knowing how many actual [H1N1] cases we have,” Schoeberlein said. “We do want to encourage everyone to be aware that H1N1 is afloat, and to be mindful of the recommendations we’ve presented to avoid the spread of the disease.”

H1N1, or so-called “swine flu,” can range from a mild cases involving body aches, a fever and coughing, to more severe cases that usually inflict people who have other health conditions or are at risk for other reasons, such as pregnant women.

Over the past four weeks, there have been steadily increasing numbers of flu-related hospitalizations and visits to health care providers’ offices for influenza-like illness, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s influenza tracking system.

Although increased flu activity has been occurring throughout the state, flu-related hospitalizations have been reported mostly along the Front Range.

As of Wednesday, Garfield County had not had any recent hospitalizations as a result of H1N1 or other types of flu, said Jim Rada, public information officer for the Garfield County Public Health Department. Only people who are hospitalized are specifically tested for H1N1 unless otherwise requested.

However, anyone testing positive for Type A flu is assumed to have H1N1, since the normal flu season doesn’t usually hit until later in the fall.

“We do know we have some additional cases of H1N1 in Garfield County,” Rada said. “We have a lot of activity in clinics, and anecdotal evidence from some of the clinics suggests that it is here.”

Colorado, including Garfield County, should be receiving the H1N1 vaccine by mid-October. A series of seasonal flu vaccine clinics are already under way throughout the county, Rada said.

“We are encouraging people to get seasonal vaccinations now, because we will be extra busy when we start administering the H1N1 vaccine,” he said. “We do recommend that people get both vaccinations.”

As for school children, Schoeberlein said parents should be on the lookout for any “red flags” regarding their child’s health.

“Watch for the standard things, fever of 100 or over, body aches, sore throat, coughing … and watch for kids who seem to be getting worse,” she said. “Education and communication are the key for us to help prevent the spread.”

Treatment is also “common sense,” she said – rest, stay home for 24 hours after a fever subsides without the use of fever-reducing medicines.

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