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Schools on lookout for swine flu

With more than 20 suspected cases of swine flu in King County, schools will not automatically close down if flu is suspected, county health officials said Sunday.

Instead, students showing flu symptoms should be sent home immediately.

Before school, parents should assess children and staff should assess themselves for symptoms. Schools should screen students and staff upon arrival, health officials recommended.

Closing schools could not contain the new flu virus, which has not proven as virulent as first suspected, health officials said.

No cases have been reported in Snoqualmie Valley, but the Snoqualmie Valley School District is following most of the county’s guidelines.

“If someone appears to be sick, we would send them to the health room,” said Carolyn Malcolm, the district’s spokeswoman.

However, the district does not have enough trained staff to screen every student and staff member upon arrival.

The district is making staff and parents aware of symptoms, and encouraging people to follow precautionary behavior, such as frequently washing hands and sneezing or coughing into your arm.

Faculty are also trying to minimize or eliminate sources of germ transmission, such as issuing disposable hall passes, said Malcolm.

None of the state’s 35 suspected cases had been confirmed as influenza A H1N1, the flu’s formal name, as of Tuesday, but test results are expected back from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention early this week.

At least one Washington victim, a Seattle boy, was hospitalized due to the illness, but other cases have been reported to be relatively mild, according to the Associated Press.

Several schools around Puget Sound had shut down due to suspected cases of swine flu but re-opened or are expected to re-open soon.

Washington received more doses of prescription antiviral medication, Tamiflu and Relenza, on Sunday. The state has already stockpiled hundreds of thousands of doses.

Flu symptoms include fever, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

The CDC cautions that medical attention should be sought for children with the following signs: fast or troubled breathing, bluish skin color, not drinking enough fluids, not waking up or not interacting, being so irritable that the child doesn’t want to be held, flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough, or a fever with a rash.

Swine flu spreads among humans similar to seasonal flu — primarily through respiratory droplets from sneezes and coughs, and to a lesser degree from infected surfaces.

Common strains of seasonal flu regularly kill 36,000 people a year nationwide.

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