Its policy of not closing schools is similar to Malaysia but Malaysia
has decided not to issue Tamilflu except after 3 days, past the
compulsory 2 days for Tamilflu to be effective.
This has resulted in high absenteeism.
Malaysia should escape the worst effects because Malaysia is having
It is not automn in USA.
Absences up as flu hits state schools
Students' early return seen as spreading illness
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
News staff writer
The early return to school for K-12 students likely has spurred the
rapid spread of swine flu in Alabama, according to the state's top
doctor and top educator.
While Alabama and most of the Southeast have the country's highest
levels of illness from the new H1N1 virus, other parts will be
catching up as their schools resume this week, said Dr. Don
Williamson, state health officer, and Joe Morton, state school
Three weeks ago in Alabama, about 20 percent of schools had absentee
rates at 5 percent or greater. By the end of last week, 54 percent of
schools were experiencing that level of absenteeism, and 21 schools
had between 15 and 20 percent of students absent.
"It's here; it's spreading," Williamson said at a Tuesday news
conference. "It's spreading in schools. We also see it spreading
Williamson said the state released enough Tamiflu and Relenza from its
stockpile for about 20,000 patients to ease some temporary shortages
and help uninsured patients. Those medicines have been effective in
diminishing the severity of illness caused by swine flu, if taken
within 48 hours of symptom onset.
Morton said the statewide absenteeism rate was almost 7 percent on
Friday. The yearly average is 3.5 percent.
"We're quickly approaching about a double absentee rate than what we'd
normally see for a whole school year," Morton said. "Where that peaks,
we don't know. It is growing."
Morton said Alabama and other states may have to ask the U.S.
Department of Education for some leeway on national absenteeism
standards set out in the No Child Left Behind law if the trends
Williamson said at the end of August, almost 8 percent of doctors'
visits in Alabama were for flu-like illnesses, a huge jump from fewer
than 1 percent of visits a month earlier. As of last week, about 20
percent of patients showing up for care in emergency departments had
flu symptoms and 5 percent to 6 percent of those were hospitalized.
Even so, the state still has bed capacity to treat both acutely ill
children and adults, Williamson said.
"Our health care system appears at this point to be weathering the
challenge quite well," he said.
The Associated Press on Tuesday reported a fourth state death from
swine flu - an 18-year-old Troy University student - but health
officials said they do not have official confirmation on that case.
Williamson pointed out that a national analysis of H1N1 deaths in
children showed that about 30 percent are of children without
underlying health problems.
"While this virus is generally mild, for some children and some
individuals, even in the absence of underlying conditions, this can
still be a lethal virus," he said.
Williamson said he expects mass H1N1 vaccination clinics in K-12
schools to begin in mid- to late October. If the new virus follows
typical seasonal flu trends, Alabama could see its outbreak wane by
November. Even so, Williamson said vaccination will be important, as
the virus could recirculate next spring.