Swine flu forces school closure

May 16, 2009 4:40:46 AM PDT
HISD's Travis Elementary School is being shut down until Memorial Day. Twelve students at the school have been diagnosed with swine flu. Now school officials are doing what they can to make sure no more students get sick. [SWINE FLU COVERAGE: Headlines, symptoms, treatments and more]

The situation has progressed quickly over the last couple of days. We started with just a handful of children staying home from school because they weren't feeling well. By Friday morning, health officials said there were two confirmed cases of swine flu. But by the afternoon, that number had jumped to at least 12 confirmed cases.

Worried parents began showing up at Travis Elementary as soon as they heard that two kids tested positive for the so called swine flu virus. It was just after 11am and first grader Luke Miller's mom wasn't taking any chances.

Christina Miller said, "With it being a confirmed case, we'd rather be safe than sorry."

"I'm worried about catching the swine flu," Luke added.

A combination of sick kids and cautious parents already kept 390 out of 700 students out of class. The number of students dwindled even more as the day wore on. Just after lunch, health officials confirmed that the number of positive swine flu cases jumped from two to 12.

Houston Emergency Medical Director Dr. David Persse said, "Of the samples that we have received from Travis Elementary, not all of them have turned out positive. So while some of the kids have got H1N1, some of them appear to have seasonal flu. So it's a mix, and it really shouldn't be a surprise."

The school district was initially reluctant to shut down the school, but by Friday afternoon, it was clear there were few options other than closing Travis Elementary at least through Memorial Day.

"We're going to be closing the school, and no one will go in the school for the entire period," explained HISD Spokesperson Norm Uhl. "We'll be consulting with the city health department to see whether a nine day period is enough for the virus die on its own."

By the time that school let out of the day, parents and grandparents we talked to agreed the school should close until the cases are resolved.

"I'm glad that they finally did something to close the school down, because not only my kids, but everyone else's kids are going to get sick," said grandmother Sandra Adame.

Health department officials say it's difficult to determine the exact number of students infected with the swine flu, since not all children visit a doctor, and not all doctors send a sample for testing.

The school district says when the school reopens, the students shouldn't have to make up the days missed because they expect the state to waive those days.

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