'Small' swine flu outbreak sickens neighbor island students


POSTED: Saturday, April 10, 2010

A neighbor island school had a swine flu outbreak in the past week, said state epidemiologist Sarah Park, emphasizing the disease is still “;out there.”;

She would not say how many students were sick with H1N1 influenza, but noted that it was a “;small cluster”; and the school was not on Oahu. Park declined to name the school or the island, explaining an investigation is under way. She also did not provide details on the extent of the children's illness.

From preliminary findings, “;it looks like some kids at the very least were not adequately vaccinated,”; she said, adding that they might have had no H1N1 vaccination or those under age 10 might not have had the necessary two doses.

“;We don't know if older kids were affected,”; she said.


Park, chief of the state Health Department's Disease Outbreak Control Division, noted the school outbreak during a program yesterday at the state Capitol honoring the four top-performing schools in the agency's statewide school-based influenza vaccination program.

Deputy Health Director Susan Jackson said the “;highly successful”; Stop Flu at School Program—which vaccinated more than 71,000 students and 9,700 teachers and staff for seasonal flu—reflects this week's National Public Health Week goal for “;A Healthier America: One Community at a Time.”;

Schools were judged in two categories, those with the greatest number of students vaccinated and those (smaller ones) with the greatest percentages.

The top ones were Mililani Middle School with 897 students vaccinated; Iolani School, 634 students vaccinated; Ke Kula Niihau O Kekaha Learning Center on Kauai, which vaccinated 76 percent of its students; and Soto Academy, which vaccinated 84 percent of its students.

Hawaii recently was ranked sixth in the nation for H1N1 vaccinations, and state health officials say this success has contributed to the relatively mild swine flu outbreak in the islands.

Thirteen H1N1-related deaths were reported in Hawaii between June and January, with most victims having underlying medical problems.

Park and the other officials urge residents to remain vigilant, by washing their hands often and covering sneezes and coughs. The recent school outbreak is a reminder that even though H1N1 is at a relatively low level here, potential problems could arise, Park said. “;It's not too late for a vaccination.”;