UNION CITY — The H191 virus has touched down in Union City schools.
The virus, also known as the swine flu, has not been confirmed in the Corry Area School District.
Union City’s Superintendent of Schools Sandra Myers said “a couple” of students who attend Union City schools recently contracted the virus.
“The Erie County Health Department did confirm a couple of cases of H191,” Myers said.
The school district also has been plagued this week by a large number of student absences due to illness, but the district could not yet confirm if the majority of students missed school because of the flu, Myers said.
On Tuesday, 100 sixth- through 12th-graders were absent from the middle-high school, Myers said. Another 80 students in kindergarten through the fifth grade stayed home that day from the elementary school because of illness, she said.
“We haven’t received excuses from all the students yet, so we can’t explain exactly what it is,” Myers said.
The rash of absenteeism prompted the district to cancel a scheduled open house at the elementary school Thursday night to minimize any health risks, she said.
“We canceled the open house to try to reduce contact among the parents and children and to reduce the chance for infection,” Myers said. “People were very understanding.”
The school district has been proactive about trying to fend off a flu outbreak, whether it is swine flu or seasonal flu. Teachers urge their students to wash their hands often and stay home if they are ill. Hand sanitizer also is readily available in all district buildings, Myers said. Information also is available on the district’s Web site.
“We are following the health department’s recommendations by the letter,” Myers said.
While some students have been absent because of the flu at Corry Middle-High School, the number of cases has not increased dramatically.
“We’re seeing kids with symptoms, but, at this point, the numbers are pretty much like we always see at the start of the flu season,” said middle-high school nurse Sue Scalise.
Scalise said she is not aware of any cases of swine flu in the district.
“We have not had any confirmed cases,” she said.
Still, nurses at the middle-high school and the district’s four elementary schools have been on heightened alert when it comes to students who exhibit flulike symptoms, including headache, coughing, sore throat, vomiting and elevated temperature.
“We try to get students out of school when their temperature is 99.6 degrees and above,” Scalise said.
Symptoms for seasonal flu and swine flu are similar, so the Erie County Health Department said people should take precautions.
To protect yourself from getting the flu, the department urges people to wash their hands frequently and to cover their mouths and noses when they cough or sneeze.
Anyone with flulike symptoms should stay home from work or school to avoid spreading the virus. Both strains of flu average about three to five days in duration, according to the health department.
People can return to school or work after they are fever free for 24 hours without taking fever-reducing medications.
The Corry Area School District has distributed information about the flu on its Web site and on public-access television Channel 8, Scalise said. Posters also are on display in school buildings. Hand sanitizer also is available in all schools.
Prevention is the simplest way to avoid a flu outbreak,” Scalise said.
“Wash your hands,” she said. “That’s the best advice.”