Flu absences not as high as expected for Oklahoma City schools

BY MEGAN ROLLAND Modified: December 17, 2009 at 6:48 am •  Published: December 17, 2009
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The Oklahoma City School District reported better attendance rates this flu season than during both 2007 and 2008, despite the swine flu pandemic.

"Everybody was very programmed to expect that we would have a lot of kids out,” said Debbie Johnson, administrator of health services for the school district. "We have done everything we can to curtail the H1N1. Hand sanitizers, education, flu shots — have all played a big role in our increase in attendance with both students and staff.”

Swine flu also is known as the H1N1 virus.

Tulsa Public Schools saw a high of absenteeism Oct. 5, with 11 percent of students out of school, school district spokeswoman Tami Marler said.

"(Attendance rates) went steadily up. From Oct. 1 through about Oct. 12 we were in the 89 (percent) to 90 percent range and then it just went steadily up from there,” Marler said. The district also tracked reports of students with flu-like symptoms, and Marler said the high rates of absenteeism seemed to be correlated.

‘Health message was heard’
In early October, the Oklahoma City School District, with its 41,000 students, saw a peak of absences at around 8 percent — much higher than the previous year’s fall numbers.

Then the numbers slowly tapered off, according to data from the school district. By the end of October, absence rates were around 6 percent.

Some school districts closed in early October due to high levels of students out with the flu, including Haworth, Roff and White Rock school districts, but there have been no closures since. Ongoing swine flu coverage Know It: Flu, pneumonia and allergies