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Swine flu hits Oak Harbor,infects middle school boy

 Oak Harbor Middle School Principal Shane Evans types up a letter Friday morning that was later sent home with students to notify their parents that a child contracted swine flu.  - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
Oak Harbor Middle School Principal Shane Evans types up a letter Friday morning that was later sent home with students to notify their parents that a child contracted swine flu.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

A 12-year-old Oak Harbor Middle School student tested positive for swine flu Wednesday, according to Oak Harbor School District Assistant Superintendent Lance Gibbon.

It was the second confirmed case of swine flu, also known as H1N1, in the county. A South Whidbey woman tested positive last week.

According to Roger Case, Island County health officer, the proper people have been notified of the boy’s condition and he’s recuperating at home and doing well.

Gibbon, who also supervises the school nurse program, said the student could be back in school as early as next Tuesday, or 24 hours after the youth is free of symptoms.

According to Gibbon, health department officials called this an “isolated incident” and instructed the school to “treat it as just the normal flu and not do anything out of the ordinary.”

The infection was confirmed Wednesday night, but Gibbon was not notified until mid-afternoon on Thursday.

He said the school district notified all employees and sent home a letter with each student Friday to notify parents of the situation. The letter also reminds families of the steps they can take to remain healthy and decrease the spread of germs.

Oak Harbor Middle School Principal Shane Evans confirmed that an email notice was sent to all school district employees. Evans and middle school nurse Mary Alice Lloyd drafted the letter for families Friday morning.

The school reported no change in attendance, slight or significant.

The first reported case of swine flu in Island County, confirmed May 15, was that of a South Whidbey woman in her mid-30s. Case declined to say which town the woman hails from, but said that she’s currently at an off-island hospital for a number of other complicating conditions that have made her situation “significantly worse.”

Although the first case was confirmed last week, Case suspects the virus could have reached the island as early as February.

Referring to the swine flu as a “novel virus,” Case explained that the new strain is twice as likely to infect the population because the community has not had the chance to build up immunity to this strain.

Swine flu infects people at a rate of 25 to 30 percent, while the seasonal flu averages an infection rate of 15 to 18 percent, Case said.

“So far the severity of the H1N1 influenza virus has been no more severe than our usual seasonal flu,” he said.

Case estimates that when and if the swine flu returns as a form of seasonal flu next year, the attack rate will likely be closer to the normal seasonal flu infection rate.

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