Swine Flu Hits HISD

The Houston Independent School District has closed three schools after one confirmed case and two suspected cases of swine flu were reported on the campuses. Harvard and Lyons Elementary and Hamilton Middle school are closed until further notice on the recommendation of the City of Houston Health Department. Laurie Johnson reports.

The schools were shut down this week as soon as the first signs of possible swine flu were suspected. HISD Superintendent Abe Saavedra says they're working closely with city, county and federal health officials.

"We do not take these decisions lightly. We think it is prudent to be cautious in this case to ensure children and staff are not exposed to this disease. It is important for parents to know that we are closely monitoring the situation and if any other cases are reported by the City to us we will take the appropriate steps to ensure safety."

Teachers and parents of students at Hamilton Middle School found out about the closure through the district's automated phone message from Principal Roger Bunnell.

"We are closing Hamilton Middle School immediately until further notice because one student at the school is believed to have contacted swine flu. I'm sorry for the late hour of this telephone message, but I felt it was critical to get this information to you as soon as possible as I learned about it."

image of Harvard Elementary

Jill Clement's daughter McKenna is in kindergarten at Harvard Elementary. She got a similar call around midnight on Wednesday.

"I woke my husband up, and I was pretty scared at the beginning. But the more that I talk to people, and I've talked to my neighbor whose a doctor, I feel more comfortable that I feel like we can handle the situation and prevent it from affecting our family."

City of Houston Emergency Medical Services Director Dr. David Persse says residents need to remember not to rush off to the ER or clinic at the first sign of symptoms.

"As far as we know, in the United States, for the most part this flu virus seems to be behaving just like the regular flu. Most people who get ill get better without any treatment. I think that's very important."

One of the things health officials are concerned about is the possibility of hospitals and clinics being inundated with people who aren't infected or who have mild cases.

"There's a certain capacity there, we want to make sure for the people who are high-risk and have serious complications that they'll be able to be seen."

HISD anticipates having the schools closed at least through the end of the week. Officials have no reason to believe multiple students are infected, but say closing the schools is the fastest and surest way to prevent the spread of the virus.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...