Schools carry on despite flu

While the nation and the state worry through an unusually severe outbreak of influenza, schools in Curry and Roosevelt counties seem to be carrying on with no more absences than usual.

Only two districts, Dora and Elida, reported greater illness rates than usual, but officials in neither district were able to say whether the flu was the cause.

Jim Daugherty, superintendent of the Elida District, said there had been a number of "stomach flu" cases, not the sinus and respiratory symptoms of the strain of flu that is currently sweeping the nation.

Steve Barron, superintendent of the Dora District, also said the cause for greater absence rates was hard to determine.

In Grady, there was an unusually high number of absences on one day. That occurred on Jan. 7, when 16 of the district's 100 students reported in ill, according to Superintendent Ted Trice.

Other school districts are reported no more illness than usual.

The Clovis and Portales districts reported normal attendance, as did Melrose.

All of the districts except Melrose also reported they had conducted flu immunizations in November.

In Clovis, vaccinations were administered to 2,547 of the district's 8,500 students, Rhonda Sparks, director of the district's health services, said. That's about 30 percent of the students in the district, a turnout she described as "pretty good."

County health offices, have been doing brisk business with flu shots and Plains Medical Center has dealt with 61 cases of flu just this month, either in admitted patients or through the emergency room.

The New Mexico Department of Health reported yesterday in a news release that it has confirmed the state's first flu deaths for the current flu season. None were reported in Roosevelt or Curry County.

Two deaths were reported in Rio Arriba County, both women in their 90s. Bernalillo County, Lea County and Chaves County have each recorded one death from influenza. Two victims were in their 50s and the other was in her 60s.

"The influenza season started early and rates of flu-related hospitalizations are higher than they have been in recent years." said State Epidemiologist Dr. Michael Landen. "If you are not already vaccinated, it is important to get vaccinated now."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New Mexico Department of Health recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older get vaccinated.

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