May 13, 2009 Edition

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WR has one of first
H1N1 cases in state

Gretchen Hunt

The Arkansas Department of Health released a statement on Friday regarding the state's first confirmed cases of H1N1 (formerly known as swine flu). One of the five cases was a Walnut Ridge Elementary School student.

The student has already recovered from the virus, and no school closure was required.

The Arkansas Department of Health release states that the CDC is not recommending school closure unless there is a magnitude of faculty or student absenteeism that interferes with a school's ability to function.

It does recommend that students, faculty and staff with influenza-like illness (fever with a cough or sore throat) should stay home except to seek medical treatment for at least seven days.

Staff members cleaned and disinfected the school over the weekend, and school was held on Monday as planned.

Letters were sent home with all Walnut Ridge School students on Friday, according to Supt. Terry Belcher. A mail out was done, as well, to be sure the proper information was disseminated, said Charles Lee, high school principal.

"Working with the health department, we have kept school district administrators, school administrators and school nurses informed of appropriate steps to take in the event of a confirmed case on a daily basis," Dr. Ken James, Arkansas commissioner of education, said. "I have every confidence that our school officials will take appropriate steps to safeguard the health of our students."

The other four cases are active duty service members from other states who are training at Camp Robinson in Pulaski County.

"It's important during this critical time for people to continue to take steps to prevent contracting disease," Dr. Paul Haversham, director of the ADH said. "We know that our citizens are concerned. There are many things we can all do to protect ourselves."

Health officials said the H1N1 case in Walnut Ridge was a mild one, and that the flu has not been as severe as originally feared. It can, though, be dangerous to patients who have previous serious medical problems or dehydrating complications.

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