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Schools' flu flare up diminishing

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By Carol A. Clark

All signs suggest that the first wave of the influenza eruption hitting Los Alamos Public Schools in August is winding down.

Some 38 students stayed home from Los Alamos Middle School Monday and just 22 today – a marked drop from last week’s absentee high of 149.

“It’s definitely diminishing,” LAPS Business Manager John Wolfe said this morning. “From what I’ve seen the elementary schools are dropping as well.”

Los Alamos High School seems to have been affected least by the local flu outbreak.

“The high schools’ numbers are about the same as the elementary schools and it’s a much larger school,” Wolfe said.

New Mexico Department of Health spokesperson Chris Minnick emphasized in an interview this morning that the state’s epidemiology lab is only testing hospitalizations and clusters.

The lab confirmed last week two H1N1 cases at LAMS.

“We did consider Los Alamos a cluster,” Minnick said. “There’s not another flu going around right now so we can assume anyone with the flu has H1N1.”

DOH confirmed Monday the H1N1 influenza death of a 52-year-old Bernalillo County woman.

“She had a pulmonary condition that put her at risk for developing complications,” Minnick said.

Health Secretary Alfredo Vigil, MD, repeated Monday that individuals who have high-risk medical conditions and develop influenza symptoms should call their healthcare provider promptly.

The first H1N1 influenza death was a 45-year-old woman from Sierra County who also had a high-risk condition.

“We extend our sympathy to her family and friends,” Vigil said of the latest victim. “Everyone needs to take steps to protect themselves and their families from the spread of influenza this fall.

That includes covering your cough and sneeze with your arm, staying home when you have a fever, cough and sore throat and getting vaccinated when vaccine becomes available.”

The Department is monitoring H1N1 disease in New Mexico and said they will inform the public of new developments with the spread of disease, availability of vaccine and health officials’ recommendations.

“We encourage adults to stay home from work when they are sick with influenza symptoms and parents to keep their children out of school if they are sick,” Vigil said. “People should stay home until 24 hours after their fever breaks without using a fever-reducing medicine.”

The Department of Health is planning vaccination clinics for H1N1 influenza when vaccine becomes available.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects to begin shipping vaccine as early as mid-October.

This year, people need to get vaccinated against both the H1N1 flu and seasonal flu, Minnick said.

Contact Carol A. Clark at lanews@lamonitor.com or (505) 662-4185 ext. 25. Read her newsblog at www.newsextras.wordpress.com.