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Another BC school closed over 'influenza-like' illness

The Vancouver Island Health Authority has recommended closing a Metchosin elementary school "due to increased incidents of influenza-like illness." The Chief Medical Officer ordered the school closed immediately. Meanwhile, Decker Lake Elementary remains closed while Northern Health monitors other schools.

According to a VIHA news release published on Tuesday, about 25% to 30% of students at Hans Helgesen Elementary in Metchosin have been absent from school and reporting fever, cough and nausea.

According to the release, the school will remain closed until at least Friday, May 8 while tests are conducted. According to the release,

Public health staff are testing a number of students. Testing will include an assessment for H1N1 influenza virus, the strain of influenza that has recently been causing illness in Mexico and other countries. There have been 6 lab-confirmed cases on Vancouver Island to date.

Meanwhile, Decker Lake Elementary near Burns Lake remains closed. Ernie Mannering, director of instruction for the Nechako Lakes school district, told The Tyee that school staff are working on site, doing professional development and planning.

Mannering said Northern Health is monitoring absence rates at other schools, some of which are reporting absentees with "flu-like" symptoms. It's not certain, he added, how many parents have kept their children out of school as a precaution.

So far, says Mannering, the number of H1N1-positive cases is unclear. The three original cases may have grown to seven, but the locations are "in the region," not specifically at Decker Lake.

Mannering said Northern Health is working to identify who has tested positive and whether they were at the school when they might have been able to transmit the infection. He added that Northern Health is also trying to determine how much ordinary seasonal flu is at the site.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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