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|Topic: EmailPrintText SizeU-32 Reports High Absence Rate,|
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| Topic: EmailPrintText SizeU-32 Reports High Absence Rate,
Posted: October 21 2009 at 5:48am
U-32 Reports High Absence Rate, Unsure if H1N1 Related
East Montpelier, Vermont - October 21, 2009
Another Vermont school has lots of sick students but officials aren't sure the H1N1 virus is to blame.
At U-32 Middle and High School in East Montpelier, about 140 students, or 20 percent of the student body, have been absent this week, which is unusually high. Symptoms range from the flu to strep to colds but officials say there's no confirmation that the illnesses are due to H1N1.
The high school is set to hold an H1N1 clinic at the end of the month but due to delays in vaccine shipments it's unclear when that will happen. State health officials will have an update on the vaccine today.
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|Posted: October 21 2009 at 6:13am|
U-32 High School hammered by sickness
Fifth of students are out this week; other schools seem unaffected
By SUSAN ALLEN TIMES ARGUS STAFF
EAST MONTPELIER – About 140 students at U-32 Middle and High School – roughly 20 percent of the student body – have been absent this week, with symptoms of influenza, strep throat and seasonal colds.
Principal Keith Gerritt, who said Tuesday that only a handful of teachers have missed school, said at this point there is no confirmation that any of the illnesses are related to the H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu.
"We don't know of any cases of confirmed swine," he said. "We do have a fear that there are some, but we don't have any confirmed."
Gerritt said it's not uncommon to have spikes in student absences due to illness as the seasons change, particularly in the fall and spring. But, he added, a 20 percent hit is unusually high.
"When we change seasons, it is a tough time," Gerritt said.
School will be closed as planned on Thursday and Friday to allow teachers to attend Vermont NEA conferences; the closure is not related to the high rate of illness.
The high school is scheduled on Oct. 30 to host a voluntary H1N1 vaccination clinic by the Vermont Department of Health for its 800 students, as well as those from the five local elementary schools – Doty in Worcester, Rumney in Middlesex, Calais, East Montpelier and Berlin.
But it's not clear if that will take place as planned because of delays in the vaccine reaching Vermont in time.
"I just got an e-mail from the Department of Health that it's still on," Gerritt said late Tuesday afternoon. "They also say they don't have the vaccine yet. So for right now, the clinic is on. We've got all of our plans made, a huge number of kids signed up."
He said about 400 middle and high school students have secured parental permission to receive the vaccine, just over half the school's student body. In addition, another 400 from the elementary schools have obtained permission for the vaccine and the bus trip to U-32 on Oct. 30.
The vaccination, which is administered as a shot, is free of charge to students, according to the Health Department.
Peter Evans, principal at Montpelier High School, said he had heard of the high number of absent students at U-32, but added that MHS has not been hit by illness.
"We've had a few kids sick," he said, but nothing out of the ordinary.
MHS is scheduled to sponsor an H1N1 vaccination clinic on Dec. 18, but like Gerritt, Evans is not certain that will take place as scheduled due to the availability of the vaccine. He said U-32's clinic was scheduled first because the goal is to reach as many younger students as possible. U-32 includes younger, middle-school students, whereas MHS only serves grades 9-12.
"We had hoped to do one much earlier than that and started working on it as soon as we got back to school. But we think because we're just a high school population, they're trying to target the younger kids first,." Evans said. "We did ask if they would consider moving it up, but they're booked.
"Then we hear the other day the vaccination is being held up," he said.
Evans said about 90 percent of the 350 students at the school planned to be vaccinated. At least one parent raised objections to the school being part of the public health vaccination effort, he said.
He said the school is staying in touch with the Health Department for updates.
"I think they're going day by day. I don't think they have really good information about what the supply looks like," Evans said. "We're getting almost daily updates on that."
The federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention announced last week that vaccine manufacturers are experiencing delays in production, which will therefore delay states' receiving the shipments as planned. School clinics are scheduled across the state in the coming months, according to the state Health Department.
"This schedule may now be adjusted due to news of vaccine production delays," the department said in a release.
The Health Department has scheduled a conference with the media today to update the situation.
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