Superintendent confirms H1N1 cases in Island schools
Martha's Vineyard superintendent of schools James Weiss confirmed yesterday that a small number of students in four of the five Island elementary schools had contracted likely cases of H1N1 flu (swine flu).
The Martha's Vineyard Regional High School was harder hit.
"A relatively large number of students are out today, about 100," Mr. Weiss told The Times late Wednesday morning. The superintendent said perhaps 30 to 40 of the 100 have the flu.
As a result of the absenteeism, including members of sports teams, school officials cancelled several sports events. The cancelled events included a varsity football game Saturday against Cape Tech at Harwich and the last two boys varsity soccer games of the season. (For the latest updates go to mvtimes.com).
Mr. Weiss said the elementary schools had a small number of students out sick with the flu. He provided an approximate count: one Tisbury School student, two West Tisbury School students, one Edgartown School student and five or six in Oak Bluffs. He said there are no reports of ill teachers.
Mr. Weiss said the flu had spread rapidly through the high school's athletic teams and cheerleading squad. About 10 members of the boys soccer team were ill, he said.
Mr. Weiss could not say for sure that all of the absent high school students had the flu. "We know about 30 to 40 have the flu, the rest are sick," he said. "But it is more kids than we would like." He said there are no plans to close the high school.
Mr. Weiss said young people are in contact with each other under normal circumstances and closing the school would serve no purpose at this time. "It is better to have the kids in school than home," he said.
Mr. Weiss said school nurses are in contact with the school physician and are monitoring the situation. For now, parents are being advised to keep their children home if they show signs of illness.
A school-wide vaccination plan developed with the Vineyard Nursing Association (VNA) and Island health agents is in place but on hold pending the arrival of sufficient supplies of H1N1 flu vaccine. "We have the plan ready, but will not move forward until we have the vaccine," Mr. Weiss said.
The school has not been caught by surprise. Mr. Weiss added that the VNA, school nurses, and Island health officials had been meeting since last spring to prepare for a possible wave of illness. "We are as ready as we can be," he said.
The Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School Wednesday reported no cases of flu.
Martha's Vineyard Regional High School principal Stephen Nixon first alerted parents Monday that several high school students, fewer than 10 at the time, had contracted H1N1 flu.
In a letter sent to parents Monday, Mr. Nixon wrote, "This is to inform you that the high school has experienced a small number of cases, less than ten, of the H1N1 flu among our students. Currently, we are monitoring the situation and are working closely with our school physician and nurse. We ask that, if your child is sick with flu-like symptoms, keep your child at home and contact the school nurse at 508-693-1033, extension 116."
Medical privacy laws greatly limit the type of medical information available about individuals. School officials said the confirmation of H1N1 came from parents.
Reports of H1N1 at the high school provided ample grist for an Island rumor mill already working at fever pitch. Yesterday, Mr. Weiss said he had heard a rumor that the high school was closed.
Martha's Vineyard Hospital reported it had tested 40 individuals between Sunday and Tuesday of this week. Of those, 13 people tested positive for flu. Although the test is not specific to H1N1, the absence of seasonal flu this time of year points to H1N1.
The first indication that high school students might be sick with H1N1 came from an email high school football coach Donald Herman sent to his players Sunday night. In a brief telephone call Tuesday, Mr. Herman referred questions from The Times to high school athletic director Sandy Mincone.
Ms. Mincone said that over the weekend she and Mr. Herman learned that some students were sick. She said the confirmation of H1N1 came from parents.
Ms. Mincone said Mr. Herman sent the email to team members and parents Sunday to highlight the precautions they needed to take and referred them to swine flu information on the school's website.