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Published: Thursday, 10/1/2009

Swine flu advice: school best if kids not sick, parents told

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Lucas County Health Commissioner Dr. David Grossman talks to Clay High School parent Debbi Hornyak at the school in Oregon. Lucas County Health Commissioner Dr. David Grossman talks to Clay High School parent Debbi Hornyak at the school in Oregon.
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If your kids are not sick, send them to school. The schools are clean. They're safe.

That was the message Michael Zalar, superintendent of the Oregon City School District, had for parents last night at an informational meeting on swine flu held at Clay High School.

His position was endorsed by Lucas County Health Commissioner Dr. David Grossman, who complimented Oregon school officials' planning and pragmatic attitude.

"I think you're as prepared and equipped and have as rational an approach as I've seen so far," Dr. Grossman said in the Clay auditorium to about 80 people, mostly parents.

Dr. Grossman said if someone has the flu now, it's swine flu, because seasonal flu hasn't arrived yet. He offered pithy instructions for parents and their children to follow if they've been around someone with flu: "If you're feeling well and you're exposed, you can go about your daily activity. If you're sick, go home."

Oregon schools have confirmed that two students at Fassett Middle School - a sixth grader and an eighth grader - tested positive for swine flu.

The district was the first in the Toledo area to report confirmed cases of the flu, although all districts are reporting absent students with flulike symptoms.

Dawn Henry, the Oregon schools' director of student services, said last night the district had been promoting hand-washing and added hand-sanitizing stations in the schools. Each school building had its own nurse, she said.

School personnel also have been busy wiping down keyboards and disinfecting surfaces, Ms. Henry said.

Among the parents in attendance was Mary Sprague, whose 7-year-old daughter Caitlyn is a student at Starr Elementary.

"I want to educate myself and see what the signs and symptoms are and what the school system will do if there is a mass outbreak," she said before the meeting.

Ms. Sprague said she worried that Caitlyn's asthma would be a potentially dangerous complication if the girl came down with swine flu. "Every time she gets a cold, it goes right to her chest," she explained.

During the question and answer period, Dr. Grossman said there was no "magic number" of people who must become sick for a school to shut down. He said he knew of a school out West that closed when 35 percent of its teachers became ill with swine flu, but the standard operating procedure is to keep schools open if possible.

In any event, Dr. Grossman said, the decision to close will be left to school officials. "We will not be ordering schools closed at the health department," he explained.

Contact Carl Ryan at:

carlryan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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