Significant influenza-like illness and high absenteeism reported among students
BOSTON – Dr. Carol R. Johnson, Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools, announced today that the Umana Middle School Academy in East Boston will close for seven days starting tomorrow, May 21, because of unusually high levels of influenza-like illness in recent days. Classes are scheduled to resume on Thursday, May 28.
During that time period, the Harborside Community Center adjacent to the school also will be closed to the public, officials from Boston Centers for Youth and Families announced.
Dr. Johnson made the decision to close the school temporarily in consultation with the Boston Public Health Commission and Mayor Thomas M. Menino. Officials said they hope that the temporary closure will prevent new infections and avoid unnecessary illness.
The Umana is the second Boston Public Schools building to be closed because of influenza concerns. Yesterday, Mayor Menino joined public health and school officials in announcing the temporary closure of Boston Latin School until Wednesday, May 27.
“We understand that closing a school for any period of time presents inconvenience to families and staff,” said Dr. Johnson, “but our first priority has to be the health and safety of all children and adults. Working closely with City and State public health officials, we believe this is an important step to help prevent any new influenza infections.”
The school serves approximately 600 students in grades 6-8. Absenteeism rates have been unusually high at the school over the past three days, averaging about 90 to 100 students absent each day, and another 20 to 40 students sent home each day with fever and influenza-like illness. Only one of these is a confirmed case of N1H1 influenza. Several teachers also are out sick today with influenza-like illness.
Officials from the Boston Public Health Commission and Boston Public Schools concluded that having so many students sick not only impedes the learning environment but also makes it easier to transmit infection. Therefore, the decision was made to close the school for seven days after which time most types of flu are no longer contagious.
Umana families and staff are being notified about the temporary closure through an announcement at the school today, as well as a letter and automated telephone call.
MCAS testing has been completed at the Umana Middle School, but officials said that any student who missed any exams because of illness will be allowed to make up the test on May 28 when the school re-opens.
City officials are advising Umana students and staff to stay at home for seven days and not to congregate at other sites. They also advise that those feeling ill follow up with their primary care provider. Persons without a primary care provider should call the Mayor’s Health Line at 617-534-5050.
To minimize the spread of illness, the Boston Public Health Commission urges the public to:
Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Cover your cough with a tissue or cough into your inner elbow and not into your hands.
Stay home from work if you are sick, and keep your child home from school if he/she is sick.
Contact your primary care physician or visit your local health center or hospital if you experience flu-like symptoms.