Monday, May 04, 2009

Precautions Being Taken in Marshall County as 39 Samples are Sent to be Tested for H1N1

Students in the Marshalltown Community School District were able to sleep this Monday morning, as precautions are being taken to protect children from getting H1N1 (Swine Flu).

The county had 6 probable cases, with 1 more in neighboring Tama County. However, 39 tests for H1N1 had been sent over the weekend to Iowa City to be tested.

From the Des Moines Register...

By Sunday, however, the remaining probable cases stood at seven, and six of them were in Marshall County. The seventh was in neighboring Tama County.None of the new illnesses was severe enough to require hospitalization, but the count could climb. Staff members at Marshalltown Medical and Surgical Center had swabbed the noses of another 39 sick people by midafternoon Sunday and had sent the samples off for testing.

Confirmation of the seven probable cases was awaiting the results of tests being performed by an overburdened federal lab in Atlanta. In the meantime, patients who appear to have the flu are being given anti-viral medications and told to rest at home.

Marshalltown Schools Superintendent Marvin Wade said he was optimistic that the suspension of classes would last only a week. He said the response to his decision seemed positive. "I think people are accepting of the fact that this step has been taken in order to protect the children and the rest of the community," he said.

He was unsure if the district would need to extend its school year to make up the missed days.

Teachers in the district have been told they may be going to back to work later in the week, if there aren't many more probable cases, but students are off through at least May 10th.

Staff at Marshalltown Medical and Surgical Center are taking numerous precautions as well.

The hospital has also set up an emergency flu clinic in a remote area of the facility and is moving up its protective access hospital-wide to Level 2, which will limit visitors to one immediate family member per patient. Access to the hospital is limited to the main entrance and the emergency room entrance.

Aside from the six probable tests sent from MMSC to the lab, five more new tests were sent Saturday and are pending results. Two other tests from MMSC have came back negative for the virus.

All visitors to the hospital will be screened and must complete a brief questionnaire before gaining access to the facility.

"These measures are being taken to protect everyone - the public, patients and staff," said La Rae Schelling, chief operating officer at MMSC.

Radio Iowa is reporting that Marshalltown will have to make up the school days missed.

The Marshalltown School District has shut down all school buildings for this week after six probable cases of the H1N1 virus were discovered. While it's a public health emergency, Iowa Department of Education spokesperson, Elaine Watkins-Miller, says these aren't free days off for the kids.

Watkins-Miller says since they are shutting down all the schools in the district, they will have to make the days up to comply with the state law that requires 180 days of instruction. She says the district will have some options for making up the days. She says there are some options, but those missed days are typically added on to the end of the school year.

Marshalltown is scheduled to end the school year on June 11th. At a minimum, the district will miss 5 days of school due to H1N1, which would extend the school year to June 18th.

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