Schools scale back approach to H1N1The mild nature of Minnesota H1N1 influenza cases prompted top state health officials to loosen up schools' responses to the worldwide health scare.
By: Mike Longaecker, The Republican Eagle
The mild nature of Minnesota H1N1 influenza cases prompted top state health officials to loosen up schools' responses to the worldwide health scare.
Minnesota schools are not required to automatically shut down once confirmed or suspected H1N1 cases are discovered, Department of Health Commissioner Sanne Magnan said Monday.
The state's school superintendents received the news during a conference call with health and education department officials.
"We have now turned a corner in the eyes of the Minnesota department of health and education," Supt. Stan Slessor said at Monday's Red Wing School Board meeting.
Until Monday, state health officials had advised schools to shut down as a precautionary measure while the flu cases were studied.
Schools can now make closures on case-by-case bases, but should remain vigilant of the outbreak, Magnan and state epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield said in a letter to Minnesota school district officials.
Schools in Orono, Minn., were closed Monday following concerns surrounding two people connected with schools there. As of Monday evening, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 279 confirmed cases of the influenza — formerly called swine flu — in the United States.
Students who appear to have developed H1N1 should be kept at home for at least seven days, the health officials said.
There are no restrictions on school attendance for siblings of affected students, Slessor said. Despite the update, schools reserve the right to shut down entirely in cases of severe outbreaks, he noted.
Slessor said the update left him "somewhat relieved." On Monday federal officials said the flu, which has been blamed for one death in the United States and 25 in Mexico, now appears more similar in severity to the flu virus that circulates each year.
"I am very pleased with the conversations we have had today," Slessor said.