Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fifth hepatitis case reported at school

Staff Writer

Source of Article:


KENNEBUNKPORT — Maine School Administrative District 71 School Board members and staff addressed the public and concerned parents on Monday, following the fifth reported case of hepatitis A at Consolidated School on Friday.

“It’s been quite a challenge,” said Principal Kathy Pence on Tuesday. “It’s still likely that we are going to get some (additional) cases.”

In September, the two original cases of hepatitis A reported in children were contained to one extended family. School physician Donald Burgess said the original case was believed to be contracted by a family member who had been traveling.

The school sent letters home to the families of children in the classes with infected students.

In October, two more students at Consolidated School contracted the virus, and did not have direct links to each other or the two previous cases. Following those reports, the Maine Center for Disease Control held a vaccination clinic on Nov. 6, and vaccinated all of the staff and about 80 percent of students. The fifth case was reported Nov. 14.

“It’s been an emotional and difficult time for us,” said Brandon Gillard Monday. Gillard said his son was infected, and worries his daughter may now have the virus.

Parents who spoke on Monday were worried about the way the situation was handled, and how and when parents were notified. A few parents asked if the School Board would enact a policy to deal with this and future situations.

“It’s hard as a parent to know we have done everything possible at home and in our classrooms, and my kids are still sick,” Amanda Murray said Monday. “I had my four children tested today, and I have three sick children now at home.”

CDC Epidemiologist Andrew Pelletier told parents the state agency was in charge of dealing with the outbreak and recommended measures that the school district take to control the outbreak and notify parents and the public. He said additional cases might be reported due to the incubation period – 15 to 50 days – of the hepatitis A virus.

Due to the time interval since the initial infections, the new cases are probably a second generation of the infection. Students who were vaccinated may still have contracted the virus but not show symptoms, or could become infected before the vaccine is fully effective.

Hepatitis A is a viral contagious liver disease. It can range in severity and length, but is not a chronic condition. It is typically contracted by ingesting fecal matter contaminated by the virus on other people, food or drink. Pelletier said hepatitis A usually results in mild illness in children, but in adults, can be more severe and even life threatening.

Pence said the school has taken steps to stop the spread of the virus, including shutting down the salad bar at lunch; switching to disposable trays and silverware; changing to a CDC approved disinfectant for cleaning; increasing cleaning of surfaces like desks and door knobs; and reinforcing good hygiene with students.

Consolidated School has approximately 208 students in grades kindergarten through five. Adults and children exhibiting symptoms including fever, fatigue, nausea, joint pain, abdominal pain or jaundice should contact their health care provider.


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