Monday, October 26, 2009
City Holds H1N1 Press Conference on Keigwin Closing
Mayor Sebastian Giuliano, Superintendent of Schools Michael Frechette, and City Health Department Director Joseph Havlicek met with the press today to discuss the closing of Keigwin Middle School for the remainder of the week due to a flu outbreak, assumed to be H1N1.
Havlicek said that 145 Keigwin students called in sick or were sent home today, nearly 45% of the 370 students enrolled at the school.
"I called this morning and there were 125 sick students," Havlicek said. "I called later there were 135. And when I called again there were 145."
That number is up from 20 sick students at Keigwin on Friday. Other schools in the system only had normal sick levels of 10% absent. Frechette reported that only a few staff had called in sick.
Havlicek said that the quick spread of the sickness is an earmark of H1N1. With a three day incubation, some have theorized that a source of the spread may have been a school dance held Friday at the school. Frechette has urged the school principal at Woodrow Wilson Middle School to call off a dance schedule for this coming Friday.
According to Havlicek, this month in the US there have been 11 deaths of children attributed to H1N1 with half of those deaths occuring after sickness of otherwise healthy teens.
"H1N1 creates a deep lung infection," Havlicek said. "And that's what's so dangerous."
Havlicek and Frechette recommend that parents of sick children keep them home.
When asked about city staff, Mayor Sebastian Giuliano had the same advice.
"Don't be a hero," Giuliano said. "If you feel anytime that you might have flu-like symptoms, don't come in. We can get along a few days without you."
Giuliano also suggested that parents of Keigwin children who become ill, who also have students at other schools may be wise to keep those children home to prevent the spread of the disease.
While Middletown has received 700 doses of H1N1 vaccine serum, it has so far only distributed those doses to children under the age of four. An additional H1N1 clinic is scheduled for Thursday.
Democratic mayoral candidate Dan Drew expressed concern for affected families and hoped for a speedy recovery for sick students, but said that the flu crisis pointed to a lack of leadership.
"The mayor wanted to have school nurses take voluntary furlough," Drew said. "But nurses would have to take those days when students are at school. You cannot take school nurses out of school, and this crisis proves it. That's just irresponsible."