19 percent of students absent at Strawberry Park

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— The illnesses that contributed to 30 percent of Steamboat Springs Middle School students staying home last Tuesday have traveled across the parking lot to Strawberry Park Elementary School.

Dot Haberlan, of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, said 96 students were absent from Strawberry Park on Monday; that's 19 percent of the student body.

Haberlan, who oversees health services for Routt County schools, reiterated that district officials don't think the illnesses are part of a swine flu outbreak. Like last week, when students at the middle school were out sick with a variety of illnesses, Haberlan said the same was true Monday at Strawberry Park. Students were absent with ailments including flu, strep throat, stomach viruses, sinus infections and head and chest colds.

"We do see these things when there is flu that is circulating," she said. "Those things seem to go hand in hand."

Superintendent Shalee Cunningham said district officials continue to monitor absence rates at schools.

Haberlan said the VNA is participating in the Colorado Department of Health and Environment's Influenza Surveillance effort to monitor flu-like absences daily at all county schools.

Suzi Mariano, a spokeswoman with the VNA, said its surveillance effort also will take place at schools in Moffat and Jackson counties. She said the daily surveillance statistics would be compiled for the remainder of the school year.

Haberlan said absences for the rest of the Steamboat school district were near normal levels - about 5 to 10 percent of the student body - for this time of year.

On Monday, the middle school was down to 46 absences, or 9 percent of its student body, after more than 100 students were out sick three days last week. At Steamboat Springs High School, only 17 students, or about 3 percent, were absent Monday. And at Soda Creek Elementary School, 60 students, or 13 percent, were home sick.

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