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Flu cases affecting schools
Several students home with illness
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Forsyth County News
It appears flu season may have come early this year to Forsyth County.

Local private and public schools have received several reports of students being diagnosed with the illness.

The recent worldwide spread of the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, has school officials taking the situation seriously.

Elaine Francel, principal at Cornerstone Schools on Brown Bridge Road, said Monday that a couple of students are staying home with the flu.

“They are at home and just experiencing common flu symptoms,” Francel said. “We’re asking that any students who have flu symptoms stay home for seven days.”

The H1N1 virus is a kind of Type A flu. The Forsyth County school district had 11 confirmed cases of Type A flu the week of Aug. 10 and five cases the week of Aug. 17.

Jennifer Caracciolo, spokeswoman for the district, said Monday that Otwell Middle School had 10 confirmed student cases of Type A flu and two staff members had also become ill.

She said Otwell has 750 students, some of whom communicated through a social networking Web site to spread false information about the flu and stay home Monday.

“In addition, students communicated with parents throughout the day and many students checked out of school,” Caracciolo said. “Rumors about flu at Otwell also impacted Matt Elementary, where many students were checked out by parents.”

Caracciolo said if two or more students in one classroom come down with the illness, a letter is sent home to parents.

The district also asks that students be kept at home until 24 hours after their fever has broken.

Nancy Rithmire, lead nurse of the school system, met with staff Monday afternoon and with bus drivers Tuesday morning.

Rithmire said in a statement that the flu she is seeing in students at Otwell is the summer variety and not as severe as other types.

She recommended prevention, including hand washing, keeping hands away from the face, covering the mouth when coughing and cleaning surfaces.

Dave Palmer, spokesman for the Georgia Division of Public Health District 2, said they expect to be able to provide seasonal flu vaccinations, possibly as early as next week.

He said vaccinations for the H1N1 virus should be available in October. Palmer urged parents to have their children vaccinated against both flus.

Palmer said school nurses have been in contact with the health department, but the district hasn’t asked the agency to step in.

He said flu season in Georgia typically runs from October to May, peaking in January and February.