11 Students in Prince William County Schools Diagnosed With Swine Flu

By Michael Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 21, 2009

Swine flu waited until the end of the school year to hit Prince William County classrooms, as a flurry of diagnoses was made last week.

As of Friday, 11 students at six Prince William schools were confirmed to have swine flu: five at West Gate Elementary, two at Stonewall Jackson High and one each at Mullen Elementary, Sinclair Elementary, Stonewall Middle and Tyler Elementary, according to the school system. Ten of the diagnoses were made last week. No teachers had been diagnosed with the illness, also called H1N1. The school year ended Wednesday, and summer school begins June 29.

The illness appears much less grave than initially feared, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people who suspect they have the disease treat it as they would a seasonal flu -- staying home from work or school, limiting contact with others for a week or 24 hours after symptoms disappear, and washing hands frequently with soap or alcohol.

Two men in Prince William who live at Marine Corps Base Quantico were also diagnosed with swine flu and have since recovered, said Maribeth Brewster, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Health.

Although the schools informed parents at the affected schools via phone calls and letters, details were limited because of privacy concerns, and neither parents nor employees were told in which classes the infected students had been.

That worried at least one parent.

"My concern is: What am I to look out for?" said Lt. Yochanan Downs, an Army chaplain whose wife is a teacher at Mullen Elementary and whose two daughters attend the school.

Prince William schools spokesman Keith Imon said the schools were giving as much information as legally allowed.

"We feel that we have an obligation to tell as much info as we can, without identifying the individual," he said. The schools decided that identifying classrooms would put individual identities at risk, he said.

Although the World Health Organization declared swine flu a pandemic June 11, an indicator of how far the disease is expected to spread, the state Department of Health has stopped testing every suspected case and is focusing on those who stand at greater risk from the virus, including the elderly, pregnant women and people who are hospitalized.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company