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StarBulletin.com

Flu outbreak closes Kauai day care center


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POSTED: Thursday, July 30, 2009

A day care center at Kauai Community College was shut down yesterday following a flu outbreak that infected five children and one staff member.

“;I consulted with the county Health Department and also met with my Cabinet because we have 25 percent of students that have the flu,”; said KCC Chancellor Helen Cox in a phone interview. “;We thought it was safer to close the center to contain the spread of the virus.”;

The state Department of Health said that it did not recommend closure. According to the state, Cox called on Tuesday and said one child was ill and the parent refused to keep the child at home.

According to Cox, five out of 20 children at the Early Childhood Development Center suffered from flu-like symptoms for the past 10 days. The sick children were tested and several had positive results for influenza A, but officials did not plan on testing the children for swine flu, Cox said.

A state health official said the department is not testing for the H1N1 virus on every person.

“;Right now our priority for testing are individuals who are high-risk or critical cases and workers at high-risk operations,”; said Janice Okubo, health department spokeswoman. “;The influenza is in the community and there are likely many, many cases. Doctors are providing the same guidance for people whether they have seasonal flu or H1N1.”;

The contagious period for the flu is a few days before symptoms appear and can last for approximately 10 days after the onset of symptoms, so a child may not feel ill but still be contagious, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cox said that was one of the factors for closing.

The day care will reopen on Aug. 10, once the center has been disinfected by KCC staff.

KCC created a flu response team when the H1N1 virus hit Hawaii so the administration would be ready to respond if necessary, Cox said. The group will disinfect the center by wiping down all spaces and cleaning items. She also talked to the CDC to make sure that the team is using proper materials that will kill the virus.

The day care center is in a building apart from the college campus so Cox said that students have no reason to expect the virus to spread from the center, which she said was an “;easily contained space.”;

“;Luckily, this happened at a fairly good time since we're right at the end of the summer semester. Our campus is actually quite empty,”; Cox said.

As a precaution, a notice was sent to KCC students, faculty and staff informing them of the outbreak.