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Rockville Students Urged to Avoid Congregating

Montgomery County officials suggested this morning that students at Rockville High School not congregate in public public places, while experts determine the origin of a flu case at the school that they can't trace to Mexico, where the virus appears to have originated. The school closed today until further notice.

“At this point in time we can only say that this is community acquired infection, and that poses something very different to us," Montgomery County Health Officer Ulder Tillman said at a Rockville news conference this morning.

“As much as possible at this point in time please stay home," she said. "Students, please do not got to the mall and congregate. Please try to stay home.”

The Rockville case is more worrisome than other local cases in Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties, officials said, because neither the sick student nor the student’s family has traveled recently. That would suggest that the student came in contact with the virus somewhere in the Washington area.

In recently reported cases in Anne Arundel County, “the dad traveled, the family was exposed to him. The World Bank Case, the dad traveled, the family was exposed to him,” said Mary Anderson, a county health spokeswoman. “This case, there doesn’t appear to be any travel history either of the individual or of close contacts ..... Meaning it may be out there in the general public now.”

Anderson said health officials “will be poring over” school absence data from Rockville High for the last several weeks, and talking to students who were out sick, to root out who else at the school might have contracted the virus.

The afflicted Rockville boy has a physical disability and spends most of the academic day in a small, self-contained classroom, although at other times he circulates in the general school population. He has a sibling at another Montgomery school, as yet unidentified by authorities, who offered few other details to protect the family's confidentiality. The student's mother had flu-like symptoms two weeks ago but has recovered fully.

The student "was well on Monday and had some symptoms on Tuesday," Tillman said. "His mother did all the right things," removing him from school and taking him to the doctor.

The new case in Rockville "indicates to us that there is community-acquired disease now," she said.

All school-related evening and weekend events would be cancelled, said Superintendent Jerry D. Weast, with the possible exception of Saturday SAT testing, if officials can find a way to give the test without aiding spread of contagion.

By Michael E. Ruane  |  May 1, 2009; 11:03 AM ET
Categories:  New Cases , Prevention , Schools  
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