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No swine flu in Castaic district, testing confirms

Other types of influenza are present in valley schools, officials say

Posted: April 29, 2009 2:31 p.m.
Updated: April 29, 2009 2:31 p.m.
 

There are no cases of swine flu affecting students in the Castaic Union School District according to test results, Castaic District Superintendent James Gibson said Wednesday afternoon.

"One hundred percent of the testing came back with no swine flu," Gibson said, shortly after receiving a call from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Attendance at Castaic Union School District schools remained "very good" Wednesday, Gibson said.

At Val Verde State Pre-School, 18 of the preschool's 24 students were out sick on Monday, Gibson said. Some students at Live Oak Elementary School also were reported to be sick, but it was not an unusually high number, he said. Some of the sick students at both schools were siblings, so the higher numbers were not necessarily reason for alarm because common types of colds and flu often move between family members.

Gibson said that none of the cases of illness at either school was the result of swine flu.

The recent illnesses at Val Verde came as Castaic Union School District faced a series of unusually high absences among its elementary schools.

North Lake Elementary School reported 208 absences over a three-day period, he said. Roughly 700 students attend the elementary school. Students who were out sick experienced flu-like symptoms, he said.

School officials are required to report an unusual number of absences to county health officials.

Following the report, county health organized clinics allowing students and families at Val Verde and North Lake Elementary to undergo testing.

Results showed that one student had Influenza A, a small number experienced Influenza B and the rest had other conditions such as coughs and colds, he said.

Influenzas A and B are types of influenza that are responsible for seasonal flu epidemics every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Flu symptoms include a usually high fever, headache, dry cough, sore throat and runny nose, according to the center.
Gibson said he didn't know whether any of the ill students had travelled to Mexico recently.

In Mexico, where the flu is believed to have originated, officials said Wednesday the disease is now confirmed or suspected in 159 deaths, and nearly 2,500 illnesses.

Following the recent health concerns, the school and county health will host a flu clinic from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Castaic Middle School library at 28900 Hillcrest Parkway, Castaic. Anyone interested in receiving a spray vaccine is encouraged to call the district to reserve a spot.

"(The virus) doesn't seem to be traveling anymore," Gibson said.

The district will continue its efforts to sanitize bathrooms, desks, doorknobs and other commonly touched items at the schools for at least the next week.

Gibson wasn't sure whether the clusters of flu-like symptoms the health department is investigating are connected to the school district.

Gibson said parents the Val Verde preschool were notified that students were undergoing testing, but at Live Oak, only parents of students being testing were aware of the tests.

"There was no reason to shut down the schools because we had no indication it would be a contagious and dangerous problem to students," Gibson said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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