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Schools see high absentee rates as H1N1 hits corridor

Medical health officer says the numbers are as 'expected'

The H1N1 flu is steadily sweeping through the Sea to Sky corridor as evidenced by the higher than normal absentee rates at local schools.

Pemberton schools appear to be hardest hit this week with 30 per cent of the high school population absent Monday, 13 per cent of which were estimated off sick with the flu.

Likewise, the Signal Hill Elementary School had a 21 per cent absentee rate Monday, 18 per cent of which had reported flu symptoms.

"These are not alarming numbers," assured the region's medical health officer Dr. Paul Martiquet. "These were to be expected. This is not anything we could not predict would happen in the second wave of the pandemic."

Myrtle Philip Community School's absentee numbers have decreased slightly over last week with 9.5 per cent absent Monday (5.5 per cent with flu symptoms). Spring Creek school, however, has had the opposite results, with an increase in absentee rates to 14 per cent this week. (Roughly 10 per cent of those are off with the flu.)

Whistler Secondary School has an 11 per cent absentee rate with 9 per cent off with the flu.

"I expect that we'll be sending some kind of communication out within the next couple of days to remind people of the strategies about coughing and washing their hands," said School District Superintendent Dr. Rick Erickson.

The schools, explained Dr. Martiquet, are just small snapshots of what's happening in the wider community. Though there have been only four confirmed lab cases in Whistler, many more have been clinically diagnosed at the health centre.

He expects to continue to see numbers like these until the bulk of the population is vaccinated. And that won't happen until mid-December.

"Our vaccination program is going to nip this in the bud," said Martiquet.
"We're going to continue to see increasing rates until basically everyone's immunized."

Vaccination clinics are taking place on select days at Myrtle Philip. This week the vaccines are still only available for those in the high-risk category. It is expected to be available to the wider population in mid-November. To learn more about the clinics go to