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Flu outbreaks reported in Wadena County schools

Century Elementary School kindergartner Solomon Lund washes his hands before snack time. This flu season, all students use hand sanitizers and carefully wash their hands before eating lunch and snacks. (Riham Feshir/Enterprise)

PARK RAPIDS -- Wadena-Deer Creek and Sebeka schools are reporting a flu outbreak, while Menahga and Park Rapids are reporting expected day-to-day absences.

Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School had 96 absences Monday with most students experiencing flu-like symptoms.

Last week, principal Louis Rutten and the health office began reporting increased number of absences to the Minnesota Department of Health.

The absentee rate increased over the week, Rutten said, 25 students were gone Monday; about 40 on Tuesday; and 54 Wednesday.

Up to 19 percent - 96 students - of the student body was out sick Monday, Oct. 12.

No confirmed cases of H1N1 flu have been reported at the elementary, Rutten said.

But one has been confirmed at the high school, according to W-DC high school nurse Jill Boline.

Other schools in Wadena County experiencing a flu outbreak include Sebeka School.

"Our absentees have doubled, so that's considered an outbreak," Sebeka School nurse Janet Mattson said.

No students in Sebeka have been diagnosed with H1N1.

"I have not received any phone calls from doctors about confirmed cases of H1N1," Mattson said.

She added that if students do get tested for the virus, the results don't come back for weeks.

"By the time tests come back, students are well," Mattson said.

As of Monday, Sebeka School's absentee rate did not go up from last week's.

The school reported 23 absences in the elementary and 24 in the secondary.

All students will strongly be encouraged to take advantage of H1N1 clinics that the Wadena County Public Health Department will provide once vaccines arrive in late October or early November.

Every school in Wadena County will have a clinic on site. The clinics will give priority to students then eventually be open to the public.

Until the vaccines are ready, health officials encourage parents to take extra precautions with their children.

Students are encouraged to stay home if they experience fevers of 100 degrees Fahrenheit along with one of the following symptoms: Coughing, sneezing, body aches and chills.

"We are asking parents to be more cautious this year, because H1N1 is a new virus that none of the children have resistance to and we don't have the vaccines yet," said Wadena County Public Health Director Karen Nelson.

Although the majority of students in Wadena County reported flu-like symptoms, included in the absentee rate are students who were out sick for other illnesses, Nelson said.

"We are preparing as well as we can," Nelson said. "We're hoping for the best. We are hoping we can prevent any serious illness."