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Flu Cases Shutter Private School

A private Havre school has closed temporarily due to a flu outbreak.

As a precaution, the city’s largest medical provider is restricting visitors to the maternity ward.

Despite the concentrated outbreak in the school, Hill County Health Director Kim Larson emphasized there is no regional flu outbreak. It is normal flu activity for this time of the year.

On Wednesday, St. Jude Thaddeus Catholic School announced, via its Facebook page that it will close Thursday and Friday because of an influenza outbreak.

St. Jude Principal Mike Haugen, in his office Thursday morning, said he made the tough decision to close after much discussion among staff, parish leaders and consultation with health department and medical professionals.

“Throughout this week, our absenteeism has rapidly increased from 15% to 30%,” reads the social media announcement. “As we are a much smaller school community, this outbreak has hindered our ability to provide quality instruction to the entirety of our students. “

Classes will resume Tuesday at St. Jude, a pre-kindergarten through 8th-grade school with 143 students.

“We’re hoping this helps us out,” Haugen said, adding he’s unsure if closing the school due to the flu is unprecedented.

Havre Public School Superintendent Andy Carlson said the public district is not considering a similar action.

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Northern Montana Health Care is taking precautions. On Monday, officials announced it was restricting visitations.

“Due to increasing cold and flu illnesses in our community, visitors under the age of 18 are not allowed to visit our Labor and Delivery Department at this time,” the hospital announced on its Facebook.

Hospital Infection Control Nurse Ginny Heberly told The Havre Herald the hospital’s action is typical during flu season. Since children are more likely to get sick with the flu, the hospital limits their exposure to infants.

Kim Larson said as of Jan. 4, Montana had 1,200 confirmed cases, 19 of them in Hill County. The Health Department will continue monitoring flu activity.

Flu symptoms include: a fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, coughing, sore throat, body aches, headaches, chills and fatigue. Most sufferers can treat the flu at home with rest and fever-reducing, antiviral medicines. But pregnant women, young children and folks with underlying conditions should see their doctor.

The Health Department recommends the following to avoid catching the flu:

  • Get a flu shot if you haven’t. It’s not too late. You can do so with your provider
  • Avoid close contact with sick people
  • If you have cold symptoms or a fever of 100.3 degrees or higher, stay away from others until your fever has been gone for 24 hours
  • Call your doctor immediately to see if an antiviral medication is appropriate for you
  • If you’re sick, don’t visit vulnerable loved ones who may be in a hospital, nursing home, or cancer care environment
  • If you’re sick, don’t kiss babies, preganant women, grandparents, or others who may be a higher risk for getting sick
  • Cover when you cough or sneeze
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Clean and disinfect anything that may be contaminated with flu germs

The Health Department and Haugen urge parents who suspect their child has the flu to keep them home.

“Keep the sick kids out of school,” Haugen said.

School nurse Ginny Heberly said those in close contact with one another makes it easier for the virus to spread during the winter.

“Hopefully, we can keep it under control,” Heberly added.

Email Paul Dragu at (406) 262-7778
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