The number of Iowa children missing school because of the flu is rising. Doctor Patricia Quinlisk is Medical Director for the Iowa Department of Public Health. She says the department received reports this week from 56 schools in 23 counties that had at least 10-percent of their students absent due to illness, most likely the H1N1 virus.
“This was not entirely unexpected,” Quinlisk said. “Anytime we have a flu virus that hits school age children as hard as this one does, this is the type of scenario we expect to see.” Most of the H1N1 influenza cases in the state have involved people between the ages of 5 and 24. So, Quinlisk says it’s easy for the illness to spread in schools.
“Schools can often have pretty easy transmission,” Quinlisk said. “Children just spread it from one child to another and to teachers, then they go home to give it to their parents and siblings.” Shipments of the H1N1 vaccine are being shipped to Iowa is small batches. Most county health departments are running out of their supply shortly after receiving it.
Quinlisk says parents can help slow the spread of H1N1 by getting their children vaccinated. “Just realize you may not be able to do it in the next week or so, but within a couple weeks, we’re hoping to get most of the children vaccinated in the state of Iowa,” Quinlisk said. A Des Moines school closed on Wednesday after 70 of the school’s 190 students called in sick on Tuesday.
Saint Joeseph’s Catholic School Principal Phyllis Konchar says classes will resume next week.