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H1N1 flu advisory goes out to parents

No cases yet in Sea to Sky corridor but schools being cautious

Sea to Sky Schools are sending home public health information on the H1N1 flu, advising parents to keep kids at home if they exhibit any signs of a virus.

This comes as another school in Northern B.C., Decker Elementary near Burns Lake, has been shut for the week after 17 per cent of its students called in sick and three were confirmed as having the H1N1 swine flu virus. It is suspected that as many as 30 students there are infected with H1N1.

A school in Vernon was also shut last week over flu concerns.

Sea to Sky school district superintendent Dr. Rick Erickson said there are no cases of the flu in corridor schools at this time. But, he said, administrators and teachers are keeping a close eye on the situation. Several families in the region have recently returned from Mexican holidays.

"We have had some kids and parents returning from Mexico this last weekend and we asked school principals where they knew kids were returning to give them a call and to encourage perhaps a day or two at home just to make sure they were OK," said Erickson.

Dave and Sue Tobias were asked to keep their two daughters home from Myrtle Philip elementary Monday after returning from a Mexican vacation Friday.

"If it alleviates fear and makes it clear that people are being vigilant about it then it is probably not such a bad thing," said Dave Tobias, adding that none of his family have any signs of illness.

At the exclusive gated resort where the Tobias family stayed, about one hour from Puerto Vallarta, vacationers were watching CNN to keep up with the news. And several Mexican workers did wear masks at work. But generally, said Tobias, the family felt safe.

"There wasn't any reported cases in our area," he said, adding that they consulted the resort doctor as the news began to break about the virus.

"You are semi-thinking about it... but it is a big country and the only indication that there had been any swine flu in Mexico was from the Mexico City area and Cancun."

When they left Mexico they were checked for fever using forehead thermometers. But in Vancouver no physical checks were done.

On Friday school superintendents from around the province took part in a conference call with the province's medical health officer, Dr. Perry Kendall, to discuss the situation.

"We talked again about reinforcing the hand washing and those things... and to be ever-vigilant," said Erickson.

The district will be looking at absentee rates in the schools as an indicator that anything unusual is happening in the health of the school population.

Anything above a 10 per cent absentee rate related to flu-like illness is to be reported, currently. The school district website contains links to complete information on the H1N1 flu (

So far, the majority of the flu cases in B.C. have occurred in school age children and young adults. The oldest person to be diagnosed was in their mid-50s. It is still unclear why this strain of the flu has not appeared in the elderly, an age group that is normally more susceptible to the flu.

Two of the 54 people in B.C. with confirmed cases of swine flu have been hospitalized. Both people are either recovering or fully recovered. Twelve of these were in the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority region, which covers Vancouver, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Richmond and the Sea to Sky area.

On Tuesday there were no cases of the H1N1 flu reported in the Sea to Sky corridor or in West Vancouver.

The human swine influenza, or the H1N1, is a respiratory illness which presents symptoms including fatigue, loss of appetite, fever, coughing and a sore throat.

There are a number of preventative measures that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of catching flu like illnesses such as the H1N1. These include washing hands often in warm soapy water or using a hand sanitizer, directing any coughs or sneeze towards your arm rather than your hand, keeping common surfaces and items clean and disinfected and staying at home if you are sick, unless directed to seek medical attention.

According to the Centres for Disease Control, the estimated incubation period is unknown and could range from 1-7 days, but is more likely to be 1-4 days.

To date there have been 42 deaths in Mexico and two in the U.S., a toddler from Mexico who died in Texas, and a Texan woman with other chronic health issues.

There are 1,658 confirmed cases worldwide.