Four elementary schools in the Brainerd School District are on the Minnesota Department of Health's influenza list. The schools are Riverside, Baxter, Nisswa and Harrison.
Brainerd Superintendent Steve Razidlo said Thursday four out of its six elementary schools reported high incidences of influenza-like illnesses. Razidlo said the school district reported the incidences to the state this past week.
Buddy Ferguson, a public information officer with the Minnesota Department of Health, said schools are asked to report to the state when 5 percent or more of students or three or more students in one elementary classroom are out sick with influenza-type illnesses. As of Wednesday, 215 schools had met that criteria, he said.
Ferguson said the number of schools on the list a week ago, Oct. 7, was 125. Ferguson said the state updates its influenza list every Wednesday. That list tells which schools had students out sick from the preceding week.
"It's been going up and we expected that," said Ferguson. "We clearly are in the second wave of influenza. It's circulating and we're seeing a lot of influenza-like symptoms."
Razidlo said of the four schools, Riverside and Baxter had a higher than normal number of students who were out sick with influenza-like illnesses. Letters were sent home to the parents to make them aware of the issue.
"We're doing more than what is required," Razidlo said of the school's communication. "We want to make sure we give parents notice so they know what's going on ... We want to keep people in the loop. We're working with the state and local public health departments and there is no definitive answer to when the H1N1 vaccine will be ready to go."
Razidlo said the district has kept weekly updates of how many students were out sick and the number fluctuated every day.
"We're so thankful for this break (teachers' convention)," said Razidlo. "We're going to monitor it when the students come back Monday."
Riverside Elementary School principal Cathy Engler said Thursday that the influenza-like illnesses have mainly affected a third grade and a kindergarten class. In one kindergarten class there were 12 students or 43 percent of the class out sick this week. Of the 12 students, one had probable H1N1, two had confirmed influenza A and one had pneumonia. The third grade class had eight students or 30 percent out sick Oct. 9.
"We do the hand washing training and we keep telling the kids to wash their hands to try to keep it at bay," said Engler. "We're putting our heart and soul into it ... This is the first time I've ever seen kids cough into their arms, I've never seen it before ever."
A Baxter first grade classroom had nine students out sick Oct. 5.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5851.
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