Independence school officials confirmed a fourth grade student has swine flu

With the 2008-09 school year ending today for the Independence School District, Superintendent Jim Hinson received a phone call that he was not quite expecting.

“We have been notified by the Independence Health Department that there is one confirmed case of the H1N1 flu virus in the Independence School District,” he said Tuesday. “There are no other confirmed or suspect cases in the district.”

The student is a fourth grader at Luff Elementary School, which is in the southwest portion of the district. The H1N1 virus is also known as swine flu.

Hinson said at a press conference Tuesday the girl has been out of school since May 20 and has not been hospitalized. Hinson said the illness was discovered during a routine checkup at the doctor’s office, and the student is “doing well.” It is unclear how she was exposed to the virus.

“We are trying to be very proactive in informing parents,” he said at the press conference. “We didn’t want to appear that we were not being forthright with this news.”

In addition to a letter that was sent home Tuesday to parents of Luff students, an automated phone notification went out to all parents who have signed up for the service. There are approximately 400 students K-5 attending Luff Elementary.

Although not recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hinson said “all surfaces commonly touched by students” will be disinfected and cleaned including desks, door knobs and water fountains.

He said he does not anticipate any more cases in the school district.

Today is the last day of school for the year, so no other precautions will be taken. Luff is not a summer school location.

“We try to put ourselves in the shoes of our parents and asked ourselves if this is something we would want to know about, and the answer was yes,” Hinson said. “We felt that notifying the public in this way was in the best interest of the parents and kids. We wanted to let them know everything that is going on.”

Hinson said parents should be aware of symptoms of the H1N1 flu virus and if concerned, should contact their health care professional. Symptoms include a fever greater than 100 degrees, body aches, coughing, sore throat, respiratory congestion and in some cases, diarrhea and vomiting. H1N1 symptoms are similar to that of the seasonal Type A flu, which is also prevalent right now.

“We are very relieved that we are not dealing with the situation of a couple of months ago,” he said. “But we are advising parents that if they think their child does have symptoms to contact their doctor.”

Parents who want to talk directly to a district nurse about concerns or questions can call 816-521-5300.

A nurse will be available through the end of today. A link to the CDC’s Web site is also available on the Independence School District’s Web site,