Swine Flu in Chicago?

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Filed under Life and News

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A probable case of swine flu has caused the closing of a North Side elementary school for at least two days. So naturally, people are freaking out over swine flu. How serious is it?

The potential case involves a 12 year old student at Kilmer Elementary School, 6700 N. Greenview Ave., in the Rogers Park neighborhood, Chicago Public Schools chief Ron Huberman said at a morning press conference at the school. Chicago Public Health Commissioner Terry Mason said the student “is recovered at home.”

Huberman said tests on the student have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and he expects results back in 24 to 36 hours.

The decision to close the school was made Tuesday after the state reported the probable case to CPS and the system noticed an unusually high absentee rate at the school.

Attendance at the school is normally 94 to 96 percent, but it was 87 percent on Tuesday, Huberman said. That was “clearly enough of a differential” to warrant the closing. He said the school would be closed “indefinitely,” but at least for two days.

The Kilmer student population of 850 is 60 percent Hispanic. It has a teaching staff of 46. The school is also in a heavily Hispanic populated area of the Rogers Park neighborhood. The swine flu has taken its heaviest toll in Mexico.

A few parents tried to bring their children to Kilmer this morning but were turned away by teachers handing out a flyer, in English and Spanish, from Huberman, saying there had been a “confirmed” case of swine flu at the school. CPS spokeswoman Monique Bond, however, said the case remained probable and had not yet been confirmed.

Huberman said school officials will be checking attendance rates at all its other schools today, and should know by this afternoon whether there are any other troubling drops in attendance.

The first United States death from swine flu was confirmed today — a 23-month-old in Texas.

Officials in Chicago recommended people take cautionary measures: lots of hand washing, eating healthy, plenty of sleep.

Do we need to worry? It seems as though this happens about everyother year, and always has a strange animal name. Remember Asian bird flu? We were all supposed to die from that too.

Flu deaths around the world are common. In the U.S. alone, 36,000 people die from flu-related causes. This just seems like another virus that could harm already unhealthy people, but yet everyone gets panicky about.

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