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Parents slam authorities' flu response

  • Julia Medew and Kate Lahey
  • May 25, 2009 - 7:22AM

ANGRY parents have lashed out at Victorian health authorities for not closing Thornbury High School last week after a second student was diagnosed with swine flu at the weekend.

Victorian Health Minister Daniel Andrews yesterday closed the school to all students, except year 12, for one week after a year nine pupil was diagnosed with the highly contagious virus on Saturday.

The boy was one of two Victorians diagnosed with the H1N1 virus at the weekend, bringing the state's infected to 11. Nationally, 17 people have been infected after a second case in Queensland was confirmed today. More details are expected on that case later today.

Some states are warning parents who have recently returned from overseas with their children to keep them at home from schools and child-care centres for a week.

Victorian health authorities believe the 15-year-old, had travelled on the same school bus as a student, 12, from the school and who was diagnosed with the virus last Wednesday.

Thornbury joins two other Melbourne schools where H1N1 virus cases have been detected, with hundreds of parents having to deal unexpectedly with children at home this week.

Mr Andrews said that when the first Thornbury student was diagnosed, health authorities decided not to quarantine other students or close the school because the pupil had only been at school for a short time.

"It was deemed the 12-year-old, the first case at Thornbury High, posed no risk to his classmates and therefore no action was taken … We have, however, now ensured that the 15-year-old's classmates will be isolated at home and the school will be closed," he said.

Although some parents praised the management of the situation yesterday, others said they were angry health and education authorities had not closed the school sooner.

Anastasia Pantazis, the mother of two year nine students at the school, was annoyed that one of her sons had been in contact with an infected student last week.

She said that although she pulled her children out of the school when she first heard of the outbreak on Thursday, authorities should have shut the school to protect students immediately.

"It won't take long for more cases to come up," she said. Mrs Pantazis said she was particularly worried about one of her sons, who suffers from cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

Tina Batich, whose daughter is also in year nine, said the school should have been shut and all students given antiviral medication.

"All the kids come into contact with one another; I don't know why they would just quarantine one class or group," she said.

Another man, 27, from Melbourne's northern suburbs, was diagnosed with the flu at the weekend.

The man is the cousin of an infected student at St Monica's secondary college in Epping, who was diagnosed on Friday.

Thornbury principal Peter Egeberg said he spent Saturday contacting parents of the year nine students and held a meeting at the school yesterday afternoon where 27 students who had close contact with the boy were given Tamiflu.

Mr Egeberg said he did not regret the school's handling of the matter.

"The decision was based on information we received from the Health Department, and I have to say I've been very impressed with the amount of information the Health Department has provided us," he said.

Mr Andrews said: "We've taken appropriate steps at that school, as we have done at each and every school."

With AAP

Influenza Hotline: 180 2007

Nurse-on-Call: 1300 606 024

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