The flu season is hitting Whidbey Island schools hard. Sickness has caused an unusually high number of absences at some schools and even prompted the cancellation of a football game.
Coupeville’s varsity football game Friday night against Cedarcrest has been cancelled and about a quarter of the students at two Oak Harbor schools are absent.
School and health officials aren’t sure whether the H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu, is the culprit.
It turns out that about 15 athletes from Coupeville’s varsity football team are out sick. High School Principal Sheldon Rosenkrance said it wasn’t safe to put younger players in a varsity game and that it was best to forfeit the game against the 6-1 Red Wolves, located in Duvall. The game won’t be made up.
“It’s not a surprise that this would be happening,” Island County Health Officer Roger Case said Friday morning, adding he understood the precaution school officials are taking by cancelling the game.
In all, Rosenkrance said there are about 40 kids that are absent from Coupeville High School Friday, which is a high number but not extreme. It’s about 10 percent, he said. Rosenkrance hasn’t received any news from doctors that the illnesses are connected or serious. He doesn’t know if it’s swine flu that is making kids sick.
The absences rates are much worse in Oak Harbor.
In Oak Harbor Tuesday, 27 percent of students at North Whidbey Middle School were absent and 24 percent of students at Oak Harbor High School were absent. The majority of the absences appear to be flu related, according to a district press release.
“Every day schools are sending home children who arrive with a fever,” Assistant Superintendent Lance Gibbon said in a news release. “They’re not hard to spot because they are tired and listless. Those students need to stay home so they do not infect others.”
Students with a fever of 100 degrees or higher must be kept home and cannot return to school until their temperature is normal for 24 hours (without the aid of medication), according to the news release.
It’s not known whether the bug affecting Oak Harbor schools is the seasonal flu, H1N1, or something else. Doctors aren’t testing for H1N1 except in serious cases that require hospitalization.
There have been four county residents who have been hospitalized, three off island, with cases of H1N1.
County officials are also dealing with shortages of swine flu vaccines as well.
“We’ve only received a quarter of what we expected,” Case said.
The vaccine is administered first to health care workers, children 6 months to 4 years old, and pregnant women.
Coupeville school officials are taking precautions as the flu season starts. The staff is encouraging everybody to wash their hands and anybody with a fever and flu-like symptoms is sent home, Rosenkrance said.
For Coupeville football players, the forfeit will drop their overall record to an even 4 – 4. Because Coupeville is a 1A school competing basically in a 2A conference, the Wolves will still make the playoffs.