Home » So Far, H1N1 flu hits Hotchkiss hardest

So Far, H1N1 flu hits Hotchkiss hardest

For reasons that are not yet apparent, The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville is the only school in the area reporting significant numbers of confirmed cases of H1N1. As of last Tuesday, there were 50 people on campus who were reported with symptoms.

“Fortunately, the H1N1 cases that we have seen have been mild and short in duration,†said Headmaster Malcolm McKenzie. “Most people have felt better in two to three days; a few have taken a bit longer to return to classes. I have been in the Health Center four or five times a day for the past week and the service of our staff and the spirit of the sick students have been exemplary.â€

Salisbury School, which is an all-boys boarding school with some day students, reports “a limited number of suspected cases.â€

“When a student has been identified as symptomatic,†said Headmaster Chisholm Chandler, “he is isolated from the rest of the school and sent home to recover under the care of parents or guardians. Symptomatic faculty/staff members are asked to remain at home. Students and faculty/staff members return to campus when cleared by our full-time medical director, Dr. Adrianna Bravo. All classes and activities are continuing as scheduled. Preventative measures continue to be taken to ensure the health of our entire school community.

“Some of the precautions being taken at Salisbury have included a registration-day screening of each student by our Health Services team; daily verbal and posted reminders to the school community regarding the importance of good hygiene; and hand sanitizers and tissues placed throughout the campus.  

“In addition, special procedures have been enacted by numerous campus departments including but not limited to dining services, athletics and housekeeping, as well as Health Services.â€

Schools in Kent seem to have remained relatively immune.

Adam Fisher, director of communications for Kent School, said that as of Friday, Sept. 18, the school had not had any reports of anyone suffering from swine flu.

“The school has been preparing for this all summer,†Fisher said. “We had an all-school meeting at the beginning of the school year and we distributed hand sanitizer to everyone. Studies have shown that influenza and viruses can be prevented by people washing their hands a little more. This is easy advice to follow.â€

Indian Mountain School said there are no suspected or confirmed cases on either of the two Lakeville campuses.

At the Berkshire School in Massachusetts, Jennifer Edelman-Crine, director of Student Health Services, said there have been no reported cases of H1N1.  

“All new and returning students were required to submit a health screening form before being allowed to register last week,†she said. “Berkshire will be receiving vaccines from Fairview Hospital, the local vaccine reception site, in early November. In the meantime, the school will follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control, which recommends that any students with symptoms of an influenza-like illness be sent home or to a local contact in order to limit the spread of illness in a residential setting. Berkshire students have been strongly encouraged to wash their hands and to take other prevention measures.â€

 There were no known cases at The Marvelwood School in Kent. Information was not available from the South Kent School.

Few incidents in day schools

In Region One, there have been a few students suspected of having the flu at the regional schools but none confirmed.

Nurses in the region reiterated the importance of handwashing. Students on some campuses have been wearing face masks, but one  nurse said that, “Really, those make you feel safer but they don’t do very much. The most important thing is to keep your hands clean.â€

Although it’s not clear why Hotchkiss had so many cases, area nurses theorized that it was because many of the students traveled through airports and on airplanes, where they might have encountered the virus; and that, once on campus, they were living in dormitories with shared bedrooms and bathrooms, and they were eating in dining halls. But it’s not clear why this would have had more of an impact at Hotchkiss than at other area boarding schools.

Some schools have put out hand sanitizers and are advising that students wipe their table before eating and then use hand sanitizer before and after they eat.

Flu shots but no H1N1 yet

Vaccines for the H1N1 virus will probably not be available until early October.

This particular flu seems to hit young people, under the age of 25, harder than it hits older people. One theory: that older people have some immunity  left over from taking swine flu vaccine in the late 1970s.

The state will decide how the vaccine is distributed, once it is available.

Priority for vaccinations will be given to pregnant women; people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age; health-care and emergency services workers; youngsters between the ages of 6 months and 24 years; and people between the ages of 25 and 64 who have compromised immune systems or chronic health disorders that put them at higher risk.

Jim Rokos, director of the Torrington Area Health District (TAHD) which oversees 19 area towns and 128,000 people in Litchfield County, said the symptoms are similar to those of the regular flu: coughing, a sore throat, fever, headache, fatigue and “a feeling like a truck has run over you,†Rokos said.

But those symptoms, if they are appearing now, are coming too early to indicate seasonal flu. Anyone who has those symptoms, most likely has H1N1.

“There is a lot of flulike virus out there and we believe it is H1N1,†Rokos said.

Flu shot clinic Oct. 13

Meanwhile, everyone is encouraged to get the regular flu vaccine as well as the pneumonia vaccine. A Northwest Corner flu shot clinic will be held in Cornwall on Tuesday, Oct. 13, from 10 a.m. to noon at the library. It is open to anyone over the age of 9; wear short sleeves. The flu vaccine is $35 and the pneumonia vaccine is $50; Medicare Part B will pay for vaccines (bring a card).

The Salisbury Visiting Nurse Association has tips on handwashing, and is holding flu clinics; for information, turn to Health, Page A9.

H1N1 was declared a pandemic in June by the World Health Organization. Updates on the spread of the flu and on the clinical trials of the vaccine can be found online at flu.gov.

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