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Crocker flu outbreak cancels church service, sporting events Wednesday
CROCKER, Mo. (Oct. 14, 2009) — Wednesday night services at Crocker Christian Church and Wednesday’s state sectional competition between the Crocker and Montrose softball teams are the latest casualties of the flu outbreak hitting the Crocker R-I School District. Due to large numbers of flu cases, both events have been cancelled, along with all classes in the Crocker schools, though the Crocker-Montrose softball game has been rescheduled for Thursday.

Crocker R-I School District representatives said that 170 of the district’s 540 students called in sick on Tuesday with flu-like symptoms, along with seven teachers. Rather than trying to hold classes with large numbers of students and teachers unavailable, district officials decided Tuesday to cancel classes until next week Monday. That will require making up three days of school. The Crocker City Council also cancelled a planned meeting on Tuesday night since too many of the aldermen were at home with illness in their families.

No other school district in the Fort Leonard Wood area has cancelled classes, and reports from other area school districts indicate none have anywhere close to the number of infected students reported by Crocker.

It’s not yet clear whether the flu outbreak in Crocker is due the seasonal flu which hits each year or the new H1N1 flu strain, originally called “swine flu,” which hit dozens of people at Fort Leonard Wood before the Centers for Disease Control stopped reporting county-by-county H1N1 flu statistics.

Representatives of the Pulaski County Health Department, which is based in Crocker, said they’ve been getting many phone calls asking questions about flu.

However, Deborah Baker, the public information officer for the county health department, said she isn’t sure how many of the county’s flu cases are in Crocker compared to the rest of the county.

“We don’t have a physician here so we don’t have people coming in to be seen,” Baker said. “We do have a communicable disease nurse who handles these things and what information she gets in remains confidential; we are not allowed to have access to it.”

Baker also said the county health department had no role in the decision to close the Crocker R-I School District.

“I am not sure what is going on with the school; they just said the kids and the staff have had many cases of flu-like symptoms,” Baker said. “The decision the school made was entirely on their own.”

Calls about what to do with flu-related issues have been coming in from all over the county, not just from Crocker residents, Baker said.

“There are a lot of people who have a lot of questions and we are happy to answer questions when they call, but there are other places they can contact,” Baker said.

Those places include the county health department’s website, which is www.pulaskicountyhealth.com, and has information on seasonal and H1N1 flu and also has links to other sources of information on the flu.

Vaccinations for seasonal flu are no longer available from the Pulaski County Health Department, Baker said, and a public vaccination clinic for H1N1 flu won’t be available until early December.

The county’s shipment of H1N1 flu mist intended for children from ages 2 to 4 did arrive Tuesday and was immediately shipped out to doctors in the county, Baker said.

“We have been sending all the doses we get out to the doctors and we aren’t even keeping any right now,” Baker said. “We will have a limited availability (for the H1N1 vaccination clinic) but it depends on what we are allocated at this particular time.”

Public vaccinations are tentatively scheduled for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Dec. 2 in the St. Robert Community Center.

In the meantime, Baker said it’s important for people to educate themselves on good health habits to avoid spreading many types of sickness, not just the flu.

“The number one thing we want to educate people on is if you are sick, stay home; if you have a fever, do not go to work,” Baker said. “The virus is spread very easily in a work or school environment. Stay home with your kids if you can.”

Avoiding public places such as stores and restaurants is important, she said. Those who must go shopping should use hygiene methods provided by some larger stores, including Wal-Mart, which has sanitizing wipes available that can be used to wipe down carts and other items.

“Don’t be touching your face with your hands; they carry lots of germs,” Baker said. “Wash your hands the amount of time it takes you to sing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song, and don’t be coughing on people.”

For people who can’t wash their hands, using alcohol-based sanitizers is an alternative.

Checking the label of hand sanitizers is important, she said.

“It has to be at least 60 percent alcohol to be effective,” Baker said.

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