Swine flu closes two Chandler schools - East Valley Tribune: News

Swine flu closes two Chandler schools

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Posted: Thursday, April 30, 2009 2:57 pm | Updated: 2:54 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Swine flu has come to the East Valley. Two children infected by the fast-spreading virus, among four in Maricopa County, attend elementary schools in the Chandler Unified School District, officials said Thursday. Both girls have recovered.

Swine flu has come to the East Valley.

Two children infected by the fast-spreading virus, among four in Maricopa County, attend elementary schools in the Chandler Unified School District, officials said Thursday.

Both girls have recovered.

Due to fears of the flu passing from student to student, health officials and district administrators agreed to weeklong closures of both schools: Hartford Sylvia Encinas, 700 N. Hartford Street; and Tarwater, 2300 S. Gardner Drive.

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“I think the encouraging thing is, it’s showing up as a mild case of the flu,” Chandler spokesman Terry Locke said. “Which is not fun, but it’s not what we feared it would be.”

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On Wednesday, a northeast Phoenix elementary school was closed after it was determined an 8-year-old boy was the state’s first confirmed case.

The fourth victim is recovering, but county public health director Dr. Bob England said that child’s school will not need to be shut. Apparently, the student did not come to school while infectious.

England expects more cases to emerge. Currently, the state is waiting to hear from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about test results of 40 more samples taken from Arizonans suspected of coming down with the flu.

However, health officials are emphasizing this flu strain appears not to be stronger than the typical outbreaks occurring every winter.

“Again, this flu continues to behave like our regular influenza season,” England said. “The only reason I continue to take such aggressive measures is to limit its spread.”

Nearly 300 schools scattered around the country have closed as the nation’s swine flu caseload passed 110.

The only reported U.S. death is that of a Mexican toddler whose family brought him to Texas for treatment.

According to the World Health Organization, 11 countries have officially reported 257 cases. Mexico, where the outbreak seems to have started, has reported 97 confirmed human cases, including seven deaths.

Swine flu, officially known as H1N1 influenza, produces symptoms similar to other strains of influenza: a moderate fever, sore throat, body aches and exhaustion.

Locke said county health officials instructed the district to follow their usual schedules, and so Tarwater’s students were released at 2:50 p.m., with Hartford’s final bell ringing 10 minutes later.

The 1,500 students — Tarwater the larger of the schools with an enrollment of 900 — carried letters to their parents from the district. The two-page letter explained the situation, asked parents to be alert in looking for symptoms and gave preventative tips.

Hartford parent Roberto Rodriguez had just come home from work when he found out his fifth-grade son’s school, down the street, had closed.

“Wow,” Rodriguez said. “Whatever we have to do to keep that … out of my house.”

The mother, Paola, was a little more worried, as they have three younger children in the home. But she said she is happy with the school’s response.

Their son, Roberto Rodriguez Jr., said he and his friends are worried and scared someone they know might fall ill.

“We’re wondering what is going to happen next,” Rodriguez said. “Is it going away? (Are) more people going to get sick?”

Unless the district is otherwise notified by county health officials, classes will resume Friday, May 8. Also cancelled until then are extracurricular activities.

Hartford was to host, on Thursday night, a city-sponsored orientation session for a new program to turn foreclosed homes into affordable housing.

“We’ll reschedule for a later time,” city spokeswoman Jane Poston said.

As far as cleaning the school, Locke said the district is waiting for some guidance from health officials about when that can take place. He added it will be done prior to the students’ return.

The district also is asking the state Department of Education about the missed days of classes, Locke said, and whether the school years for Hartford and Tarwater will be extended.

State education department spokeswoman Amy Rezzonico said it was recommended lost classroom time is made up. But, she added, the final decision is the schools’.

Tribune writer Hayley Ringle contributed to this report.

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