KNAPPA — Hilda Lahti Elementary School in Knappa will keep kindergartners through sixth-graders at home today and Wednesday to help stem a flu outbreak that has affected an estimated 43 percent of students, along with several teachers and staff.
The outbreak began last week. Superintendent Paulette Johnson said some classes at the elementary school on Monday were down to four healthy students. The school district met with county and state health officials Monday to discuss next steps.
“The health department’s take on it is if you can’t function as a school, close it,” Johnson said.
Hilda Lahti is a kindergarten-through-eighth grade school, but kindergarten through sixth grade are in a contained area. The flu has not significantly hit the middle school population yet, and seventh- and eight-graders who attend classes at Hilda Lahti and Knappa High School will stay in school, Johnson said.
“Hopefully by Thursday morning, we’ll have more kids at school,” she said.
Clatsop County Public Health Director Michael McNickle said no other school districts in the county reported abnormally high rates of flu infection.
Kendra Gohl, the director of nursing and an infections prevention specialist at Columbia Memorial Hospital, said the incidence of influenza this winter has been higher than in the last couple of years and largely affecting younger populations.
“The metro areas were already seeing it,” Gohl said. “It was only a matter of time before we would get it.”
Three people have been treated at the hospital for influenza since last fall, Gohl said. She commended Knappa for making the decision to close classes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that the spread of flu this season is worse than in any year since the 2009 swine flu pandemic. Two children died from the flu earlier this month in Oregon amid reports that the infection has spread across the state.
Health officials have tips for parents who think their children might have the flu:
• Keep them home for 24 hours until after fever has resolved without the aid of fever-reducing medicines
• Avoid close contact with sick people
• Wash hands often with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds
• Cover coughs and sneezes with tissues or the inside of the elbow
• Avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth to prevent the spread of germs
• Get the flu vaccine