The Associated Press
ALBUQUERQUE — New Mexico health officials confirmed two more cases of swine flu on Monday, bringing the total to three, as more than a dozen schools in a handful of communities closed this week due to concerns over the illness.
Sixteen schools — Carlsbad High School, Deming Intermediate School, all public schools in the Lordsburg districts, all public schools and a charter school in the Socorro district and a Veguita elementary school — were ordered closed this week. The order also closed all extracurricular activities, athletic and academic competitions and after-school programs such as proms in the affected schools.
State health and education officials said it’s possible the schools could remain shut down next week, depending on flu cases.
Over the weekend, New Mexico confirmed its first case of swine flu, in an 18-year-old Valencia County boy who the state Department of Health said is home-schooled and is recovering. On Monday, the state received confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on two Socorro County cases — a 14-year-old female and 15-year-old male who have both recovered.
Public Education Secretary Veronica Garcia said the confirmed cases increased the chances other probable cases will test positive.
State officials asked parents of students at the closed schools to keep their children home and prevent them from congregating to prevent the spread of swine flu, which state officials are calling by its official designation, H1N1 flu.
“We hope people adhere to the guidelines in the interest of their children’s health and that of the community,” Garcia said Monday.
She also reminded parents not to send sick children to school.
How the closed schools will make up the time will be decided on a case-by-case basis, Garcia said. Some may have enough time built into their calendars, while others could lengthen the school day or extend the school calendar, she said.
To be fair to the closed schools, the New Mexico Activities Association suspended all athletic and activity programs, including games and after-school practices, for all NMAA schools. NMAA Assistant Director Robert Zayas said that will keep all schools on equal footing before state championships.
Tests are under way on 12 probable swine flu cases: a Bernalillo County man; three adults, one teen and one child in Eddy County; two teens and two children in Hidalgo County; a teen in Valencia County; and a child in Luna County. The Department of Health did not have the conditions of three of the Hidalgo County patients, but said the others who became ill are recovering.
Garcia said state officials considered several things before deciding to shut down schools, such as whether children got sick on a Saturday and never went to school, attended school the day they became ill or had siblings who went to school. The state has said an investigation of students with probable cases found they were in school when they were contagious.
The CDC is looking into whether the infectious period for H1N1 is the same as for seasonal flu. Health authorities say people with seasonal flu are infectious a day before showing symptoms and about seven days after.
The Department of Health said the best thing people can do to avoid the disease is wash their hands often, cover their cough with a tissue or their arm and stay home if they’re sick.
Symptoms of swine flu include a fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Diarrhea and vomiting also have been associated with it.
State toll-free flu hot line: 1-866-850-5893