Swine flu boy back at school

A CHILD from Mullumbimby's Shearwater Steiner School has tested positive to swine flu.

Parents received the news in a letter from the North Coast Area Health Service yesterday.

Shearwater school administrator Stan Stevens said he was called two days ago by the boy's mother, who told him her son had been diagnosed with the virus.

It is believed the child picked up the virus locally, as he had not been out of the area.

Mr Stevens said the boy had been kept at home for the duration of his illness and had since been given the all-clear by his doctor to go back to school.

Parents picking up their children from the school yesterday seemed largely unfazed by the news.

Some said it was 'just another form of flu' and the public 'were more worried than they needed to be'.

However, mother-of-two Heather Rose, whose 11-year-old daughter attends Shearwater, said she was feeling nervous, especially since both her children had recently been ill with unusual symptoms.

Both children were taken to the doctor this week after they came out in rashes and her 17-year-old son complained of a sore throat.

He was prescribed antibiotics, but Ms Rose said she would now have him tested immediately for swine flu.

Despite her concerns, Ms Rose said she would continue to send both her children to school if they were healthy.

“You can't wrap them in cotton wool. Keeping my child at home would be neurotic,” she said.

“If they were sickly children, I might be more concerned, but my children are robust.

“It seems to be only a danger for people who are fairly ill.”

Those comments were backed by North Coast Area Health Service public health director Paul Corben, who said NSW health authorities had recently determined the threat of serious illness from swine flu was not as great as authorities had first thought.

He said most people who caught it would suffer a mild illness and recover fully.

This meant NSW would not close schools, as had recently happened in Victoria and Queensland.

“We are not closing schools, except in very extraordinary circumstances,” he said.

However, Mr Corben warned the North Coast appeared to be in the early stages of local transmission - meaning it was not just appearing in people who had recently been overseas.

He said swine flu still posed a serious risk to certain people in the community, such as pregnant women, indigenous people, or people with an underlying medical condition such as asthma, and he urged people to help try and stop the spread of the virus.

He said people should stay at home if they have symptoms and should follow good hygiene practices such as washing hands and covering up coughs and sneezes.

People should have a seasonal flu vaccination and people over 65 and Aboriginal people over 50 should have a pneumococcal vaccine to protect against the threat of pneumonia.

Mr Corbin said the number of swine flu cases on the North Coast now stood at 13 and this was not the first case of a school-age child with the illness.

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