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Four more Santa Clara County schools close because of swine flu fears

Title: Four more Santa Clara County schools close because of swine flu fears
Date: Thursday, 30 April 2009
Publisher: San Jose Mercury News
Authors: Jessie Mangaliman, Linda Goldston, Ken McLaughlin
Main source:

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Four more Santa Clara County schools are closing because of concerns about possible swine flu infections, county health officials said today.

They are not expected to open until Monday, May 11, according to county health officials.

Among those closing is Rucker Elementary, a K-5 school near Gilroy. At least one child at the school, and possibly others, are being tested for swine flu, Gilroy Unified School District Superintendent Deborah Flores wrote in a message posted on the district's Web site.

"In conjunction with the Public Health Department, we decided to move forward with the school closure tomorrow because of a cluster of students who are presenting flu-like symptoms in the fourth grade," the message said. "There are also several other students at other grade levels presenting flu-like symptoms."

The message said the district will let parents know when the school will reopen.

Also closing Thursday is Challenger School - Strawberry Park a private K-8 campus in West San Jose, where one 5-year-old student is likely to have swine flu, according to the school's Web site. If that case is confirmed, the school will reopen May 11, the message said.

Two private schools in Santa Clara that share a campus are also closing: A 6-year-old student at Delphi Academy of San Francisco Bay has tested probable for swine flu and so it and the adjacent Elan Esprit Preschool shut down Thursday.

At Delphi Academy officials got the word shortly after 1 p.m. and immediately called parents to come and pick up the 150 students. By 4 p.m. the school was largely evacuated; on normal days, the school day runs until 4:15 p.m.

Teacher Julie Stump, who was removing the pet rat she keeps in her classroom, said students, rather than worried about the flu, were sad they would be missing class for so long.

"We have so many things going on at the end of the school year and our bike-a-thon on Saturday has been postponed." said Jessica Robles, a second grade teacher.

The school is going to keep classes going via e-mail, and students were sent home with a lot of work. Teachers are available by phone and e-mail, but it's unclear how the arrangement will work.

"We sent the kids home with lots of things to do," said Principal Marcy Green, It's really sad to miss school for an entire week."

As a few dozen children played on a playset outside Challenger school late Thursday afternoon, parents began trickling in to pick up their children after receiving notice of the closure.

At least one parent was not surprised to hear of the school's temporary shutdown. "In the back of my mind I was thinking this was going to happen," said Priyanka Deo of Cupertino, whose 4-year-old daughter, Ruscha, is a preschooler. "I'm more concerned than shocked."

Deo planned to call the family pediatrician to get Ruscha checked out although she's not sick.

Durga Chitti, a software engineer from San Jose, said she was considering working from home while her son, Sivansh, 6, was out of school.

"I need to talk to my boss about my situation and my kid," she said. "But I appreciate the idea that (health officials) are thinking about the safety of the kids."

Vishakha Prashad, a San Jose stay-at-home mom, didn't worry about having child care for her daughter Satchi, a Challenger kindergartner. But, said Prashad, who also has a 2-year-old son, it's going to be hard to be in the house with two children for 10 days. Still, she didn't disagree with the temporary shutdown. "It's a good decision."

Meanwhile, at least six more probable cases of swine flu were reported in the Bay Area today, with likely infections announced in Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Mateo and Solano counties.

San Francisco health officials announced that a local boy who recently traveled to Mexico is confirmed to have swine flu, according to Bay City News Service. The boy is reportedly not in school.

Two likely cases of swine flu have been discovered in San Mateo County, a top county health official said.

Both patients — a 46-year-old woman and a 50-year-old man — had mild symptoms, were not hospitalized and are now recovering, said Dr. Scott Morrow, the county's health officer. Neither patient had been in Mexico recently.

"It doesn't appear at this moment to be worse than an average flu," Morrow said at a news conference this morning.

Tests from the county's public health lab on Wednesday revealed the man and the woman both have a type A influenza virus that officials believe is swine flu. Morrow said state health officials will do further testing on the samples to confirm their findings.

The woman is a Bay Area resident and the man is visiting California from out-of-state, Morrow said. The man got off a plane after feeling ill, Morrow said.

So far, the county's health lab has tested about 50 patient samples that local doctors have sent in for testing, Morrow said. He estimated there are another 100 or so samples in the testing queue.

Morrow encouraged residents to take the same flu-prevention precautions officials have been recommending all week: wash hands frequently and cough or sneeze into a shirt sleeve. He urged residents not to visit emergency rooms if they have mild flu symptoms and not to demand that their doctors test for swine flu.

Also today, Solano County health officials identified that county's first probable swine flu swine flu patient as a 50-year-old Vacaville man.