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School flu absences dip slightly

The number of Ashland students absent with H1N1 virus symptoms decreased slightly in the past seven days — but it's unclear if the worst is over, a district official said.

"It purely speculative, but we're hoping that we've hit the peak and we're on our way to getting everybody healthy," said Samuel Bogdanove, the district's director of student services.

During the seven days ending Thursday, 366 students were absent due to flu symptoms. That's 12.4 percent of the district's students — down just slightly from the 13 percent absent in the previous seven days.

According to attendance records, 239 new flu cases were reported in the past seven days. In the previous week, 291 new cases were reported. The new figures represent a decline of about 2 percent in new cases.

Attendance secretaries are recording when students are absent due to flu symptoms. Because it is too early in the year for much seasonal influenza to be circulating, health officials are assuming that anyone with flu symptoms likely has the H1N1 virus, known as swine flu, Bogdanove said.

In the past seven days, the number of flu cases decreased at all schools except Ashland High School and Willow Wind Community Learning Center.

At Ashland Middle School, 19 percent of the student body was absent due to flu symptoms — the highest percentage of any school in the district. At Walker Elementary School, 13 percent of the student body stayed home sick due to flu symptoms. Ashland High School recorded 12 percent of its student body absent due H1N1 symptoms.

At the other district schools, between 8 and 9 percent of the students were out sick due to flu symptoms.

District officials hope the number of flu cases will decrease beginning on Tuesday, when students return from three days off for parent-teacher conferences.

"I think we're very lucky that we have a few conference days and a weekend," Bogdanove said. "The kids are not all at school and in the same classroom. I think it'll help."

So far, Jackson County Health and Human Services has not asked the district to close any schools due to flu cases.

Last week, football games and a homecoming dance at Ashland High School were canceled after as much as 20 percent of the student body reported having flu symptoms. School officials are working to reschedule the dance, Bogdanove said.

The district expects to receive the H1N1 vaccine the week of Nov. 8, at which time it will be available to students and at-risk staff members.

In the meantime, school officials are reminding students to wash their hands, cover their coughs and stay home if they're sick.

"I think every one's taking it seriously and keeping an eye on it," Bogdanove said. "I think we're doing everything we can until the vaccine is available."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.