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Another Palmerton student contracts H1N1 virus

Published October 22. 2009 05:00PM

Another student in the Palmerton Area School District has contracted the H1N1 swine flu, one of several believed to have tested positive for the virus.

Resident Debbie Kaintz, who has three children who are students in the district, confirmed on Wednesday that her one son, an eighth-grade student in the junior high, has tested positive for the virus.

Kaintz told the TIMES NEWS on Wednesday that she learned her son tested positive earlier that morning after she had to rush him to the hospital with a high fever.

Kaintz said she believes the school district "has taken away my right as a parent to protect my child" because "there just isn't enough parent and school communication going on."

"What they're [the school district] doing is causing panic in the kids, which is causing panic in the parents," Kaintz said. "To find out only two days later that your child has it..."

Resident Lisa Zupa, who has a child who is a kindergarten student at the Parkside Education Center, contacted the TIMES NEWS on Wednesday with the news of the latest student to test positive for the disease.

Zupa, whose family is friends with the Kaintz family, said humans are most contagious to the virus two days before symptoms begin to show.

"We are livid; now all of the rest of our children are at risk," Zupa said. "We need to do what we need to do as parents, and for our friends, to protect our children."

Zupa said she believes the district "should handle the situation the same way as if a kid had chicken pox or strepped throat, and send a simple note home."

"If we're going to get it, we're going to get it, but as a school, it's their responsibility to let parents know," she said. "I kept my son home from school today, because our families are close."

While the exact number of students in the district who have tested positive for the epidemic is not known as of this time, it's believed that at least several have, Superintendent Carol Boyce told the TIMES NEWS this morning.

"The medical community is treating Type A influenza in the same manner that they are treating the H1N1," Boyce said. Because physicians' offices are not sending off all of the cases to be tested, "we have really no reliable way to give exact numbers."

Boyce said the district is just as concerned with the matter as families are.

"Each and every day brings us new information, and certainly we share families' concern," she said. "We are in the process of arranging for the H1N1 vaccination clinic, [but] we cannot move any faster than we are because the vaccine is not yet available to us and we need to make those arrangements through the state Department of Health."

In the meantime, Boyce said "the district is getting advice from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and other governmental agencies."

"As information becomes available, we act on it," she said. "We're moving as fast as we can."

The school board on Tuesday made a motion for the district to hold a clinic for the H1N1 swine flu. That day, there were 89 students absent from the junior high school, and another 63 absent from the high school, with another three that went home early.

At that time, Boyce said the district will stage a clinic for inoculations for the swine flu for the entire student body. She said the clinic will be held as soon as the vaccine is available.

The vaccines will be administered through the state Department of Health, at no cost to the district, Boyce said. However, she cautioned the procedure isn't mandatory, and that parents do have the option for their children.

Boyce said the district would close school only under the most severe of circumstances.

"Once again, if families are concerned about their youngsters, they can certainly feel free to keep them home," she said. "New information, scientific information, is coming out every day."

Boyce said the district will send home consent forms, which will have to be completed, in order for the children to receive the vaccines. She said the district is following the Centers for Disease Control and State Department of Health guidelines regarding its procedures.

Children should be fever-free for at least 24 hours after they no longer take fever reducing medication before they return to school, Boyce said. She said the district will continue to follow its student absence policy.

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