Thursday, September 24, 2009

Vancouver schools starting to feel the impact of the flu

Could it be that the H1N1 flu virus is gaining a foothold in the Vancouver area? That is something on the minds of parents, as three Vancouver area schools report higher than normal absentee rates, with one school advising that over one third of its population has stayed home with flu like symptoms.

The arrival of flu season so early this year, seems to have proven correct earlier fears that once students returned to the classrooms from their summer breaks the number of reported cases would rise with such close contact as can be found in the schools serving as an incubator for the transmission of the flu.

So far Elsie Roy elementary, Notre Dame Regional Secondary School and St. Patrick's Regional Secondary, all in Vancouver have seen spikes in absent students, though its thought that some of that number could be attributed to students (and parents) not wishing to contract the virus.

One Vancouver Island school also has reported cases of H1N1, Shawnigan Lake School a boarding school on the Island has also been keeping a close watch on its cases.

While the number of absentee students does increase, there has not been any official confirmation that the outbreak is attributable to the H1N1 virus, or is just part of the regular seasonal flu arrival.

The outbreak comes well before any vaccines have been made ready or before any form of vaccination program has been announced by the Province or various school districts. It's not expected that the vaccine would be made available before mid-November and in some parts of Canada there is some question as to whether the regular seasonal flu vaccines will be given or if a mass flu shot program for H1N1 will take it's place.

There are some studies currently being examined which suggest that the seasonal flu shot may actually increase the risk of H1N1, a confusing bit of debate that won't particularly help alleviate the fears of Canadians wondering how best to approach any potential outbreaks.

Globe and Mail-- Hundreds stay home as flu hits schools before vaccine is ready
Canadian Press-- Flu keeping B.C. kids home from school as virus season gets early start
CBC-- Swine flu hits Vancouver and island schools
Vancouver Sun-- Flu-like symptoms keep students away from B.C. schools
Northern Health flu website

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