Friday, October 16, 2009

District seeks info on vaccinations

School absenteeism only slightly higher than usual


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County School District is trying to find out how many parents want their children vaccinated against the H1N1 swine flu virus as absentee rates increase at schools in southern Idaho.

Scott Manning, the district's safety director, said Thursday that the Blaine County absentee rate was 7.5 percent this week, about 2 percent higher than normal. He said the district isn't looking at school closures at this time, such as occurred in Oakley and Murtaugh where absenteeism was at about 35 percent.

"Parents need know that there's no reason to panic," Manning said. "But if kids are sick, keep them home."

Since testing for H1N1 is now only being done for severe cases of influenza, it's impossible to know how widespread the virus might be in the district's schools. Manning said the district does not know if the higher-than-usual absentee rate is even attributable to the flu.

"All we know is they're reported as illness," he said. "We don't know if they're influenza or what."

Manning said a letter is going out to parents this week notifying them that the district is working with the South Central District Health office in Bellevue to establish school-located vaccination clinics and asking parents if they want their children to receive the vaccine.

"We ask that parents respond as quickly as possible so that we can order the appropriate number of vaccinations," Manning said.

He said the date that the vaccine is available to the school district is dependent upon federal and state distribution.

"They're pretty slow in coming now, but we expect them to be available within the next few months," he said. "We're trying to get our number in now so we can be up on the list."

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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