Lakewood teens have flu, not H1N1

Lakes High School in Lakewood will reopen Monday after state test results released Friday night determined two hospitalized students do not have the human swine flu virus.

Acting on a recommendation from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, school officials canceled classes and activities Friday out of concerns that two Lakes students might have contracted the H1N1 flu virus, also known as human swine flu.

They were awaiting results of additional tests to decide whether to hold classes Monday.

Friday night, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department announced that additional tests from the state health lab showed that while the students remain hospitalized with influenza, it’s not the swine flu strain.

That means Pierce County still has no confirmed or “probable” cases that have come to the attention of authorities.

“We’re just really pleased,” said Laurie Jinkins, deputy director of the Health Department. “We got the best possible outcome we could.”

She praised Clover Park School District officials for being willing to close school Friday as a precaution.

“That was a difficult decision to make, but I think it was the right decision,” she said.

District Superintendent Debbie LeBeau said at a press conference Friday morning that the district closed Lakes as a preventative measure.

“We’re taking an abundance of caution here,” Health Department director Anthony Chen said.

The district also canceled Lakes’ participation in two events today: a league choir competition in the Bethel School District and in an invitational track meet in Shelton.

That decision still stands. By the time the district received the test results Friday night, officials decided not to retract the earlier decision because participants already had adjusted their schedules, district spokeswoman Kim Prentice said.

Lakes athletic director Joe Keller said Friday’s athletic events would be rescheduled.

The two ill students, and a third Lakes student, were friends who went to Madigan Army Medical Center on Thursday, complaining of flulike symptoms, health and district officials said.

One student had been to Mexico recently.

Initial tests at Madigan determined two of them had contracted an Influenza A virus. Swine flu is part of that larger virus family.

One of the students was placed in intensive care and remained in serious but stable condition, Chen said Friday. Another student, who initially was hospitalized in a pediatric section, was moved to the intensive care unit as a precautionary measure, he said.

Jinkins said they remained hospitalized Friday evening in the intensive care unit.

The third student showed milder symptoms, tested negative for the flu, and was not hospitalized, the health department said.

Two of the individuals are boys and one is a girl, Prentice said. Prentice said she didn’t know whether the students were taken to Madigan because they are children of military personnel. She also said she didn’t know if the students had siblings in other Lakewood schools.

Custodial staff members in other schools have been instructed to do extra cleaning on stairway rails, doorknobs and other high-contact areas, as a precaution, she said.

At Lakes, chief custodian John Horne’s crew spent Friday using a disinfectant to wipe down surfaces in the cafeteria, hallways and classrooms.

Clover Park was notified of the health concerns at 12:30 a.m. Friday when the Health Department called LeBeau to say Madigan was treating students who would undergo further tests for the swine flu virus.

The Health Department advised a one-day closure, and parents and staff received phone calls about 5:15 a.m. Earlier Friday, Lakes junior Cameron Boyd was a bit nervous to hear that classmates might have been infected with swine flu. But the 17-year-old was disappointed that classes were cancelled; he wanted to prepare for next week’s Advanced Placement tests.

The two Lakes cases were the only patients at Madigan so far showing symptoms of the disease, hospital spokeswoman Sharon Ayala said. Medical staff members on Fort Lewis are “aggressively monitoring soldiers for influenza-like illnesses,” she added.

Madigan has stocks of Tamiflu at the hospital and more available on the regional level.

Medical staff members have loaded information about the disease on its Web site, set up a flu hot line and will hold meetings for soldiers and their families beginning next week.

The military staff members also are in regular contact with local and state health officials, Ayala said.

Fort Lewis distributed a memo to the commanders of its on-post units advising them to take reasonable precautions to prevent infection, post spokeswoman Catherine Caruso said.