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29 probable flu cases in state

BY JENNIFER DELGADO | MAY 06, 2009 7:30 AM

As of Tuesday, officials were testing 29 probable H1N1 influenza cases across the state, health officials said, including one Iowa State University freshman from Marshalltown.

At the UI, officials said, classes and finals will not be canceled if a university student, faculty, or staff member is found to have the illlness. If schools have infected students or employees, they should stay open and ask those with the flu to go home, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

“We’re just continuing operations as normal,” said UI spokesman Steve Parrott. “We’ve been advised there’s no reason not to have large group activities.”

If someone on campus becomes infected with the virus, UI officials said, they plan to follow the CDC’s procedure and ask the individual to stay home.

“This flu has shown itself to be pretty highly communicable,” said Chris Atchison, the director of the UI Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Task Force. “We would have to control its spread so it doesn’t go too far too fast.”

Former Provost Michael Hogan created the flu task force in 2006. The group developed a pandemic plan, which describes how the university would deal with a public-health outbreak such as the H1N1 flu. The 458-page document lists the chain of command for different UI departments, when to cancel classes and events, and what kind of reaction to expect from students, faculty, and staff.

The infected ISU female has left the campus for the rest of the academic year, officials said, and the university will continue with scheduled events. Officials stressed there is no known link between the Marshalltown native and Marshall County’s 27 probable cases, many of which were found in school-age children.

State health and educational officials canceled classes for all schools in the Marshalltown School District on May 2, saying their goal was to stop the illness from spreading. The Marshalltown district plans to reopen on Thursday after the hearing the new recommendations from the CDC.

“The Department of Education is recommending if children do have flu-like symptoms, including employees, they should stay at home,” said Elaine Watkins-Miller, Iowa Department of Education spokeswoman. Education officials are looking into how the schools will make up the missed days, she said.

Nationally, more than 700 schools in 24 states have been closed because of the flu virus, affecting 468,000 students, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Because no cases have been confirmed in Johnson County, UI officials said, some of the daily flu updates will be canceled, such as those on the university’s pandemic flu website.

Mary Jane Beach, a codirector of the UI Critical Incident Management Team, said team members have been e-mailing each other frequently and have scheduled meetings throughout the week in case anything new occurs. The group has not received any major inquiries and doesn’t sense a level of heightened concern, Beach said.

“We’re waiting to see if there’s anything else that needs to be said, but so far there isn’t,” Beach said.


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