Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More cases of swine flu, more deaths.

The Korea Times says five people infected with swine flu died in Korea yesterday, bringing South Korea's total to 25:
Five people infected with influenza A (H1N1) died Monday, the highest daily report of casualties from the fast-spreading pandemic.

Two handicapped children ― a nine-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl ― died while being treated for H1N1. Autopsies are being conducted to determine whether they died of the new flu or other causes.

According to the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs, the deaths of three more people ― a 14-year-old middle school student and two women in their 70s were confirmed to be flu-related.

The article continues with an alarming number:
The ministry is considering shutting schools temporarily to contain any rapid transmission, as more than 41,500 students in 870 schools nationwide have been infected with the flu virus, as the rate of transmission has been growing fast.

On Oct. 22, there were 1,109 people confirmed with the flu in Seoul alone. ``There are so many students infected with the disease, even I am scared of the flu,'' said an elementary school teacher in southern Seoul.

Masks are common in some classes.

Some schools have been cancelling classes; says Burndog:
My school has cancelled classes today and tomorrow. We have about 40 kids down, and 3 teachers. An elementary aged child died at a nearby school last week, so everyone's a bit upset and worried.

And schwa:
In my school of 950 there were 130 absent with flu-like symptoms today.

As far as I know we'll have school tomorrow but afterschool classes are cancelled & the speech contest at the end of the week is in jeopardy. Curiously, some of my classes are at full strength & others are decimated. I just plan ahead as normal & what will happen will happen.

That's nothing new, because I've read on Dave's and Facebook of teachers with reduced schedules because of cancelled classes. Here's a thread started on the 22nd, "Is the flu spreading like crazy at your school?"; from original poster xCustomx:
This week the flu is starting to spread all over. Today there are about 4-6 students absent in every class, and more went home after lunch. There was a line of about 15-20 students at the nurse office during lunch and students are constantly coughing in class. I imagine this is only going to get worse as it gets colder and more people are infected.

And Gordana:
According to my co-teacher, yesterday we had 80 students absent - 7 of whom have been diagnosed with swine flu.

Today the Principal instructed all teachers to have classroom windows open so that any dirty germs will 'fly away' rather than linger and infect.
It was freeeeezing.

And blackjack:
My school has been closed since tuesday, right when I started to get sick. don't think it is swine flue as different symptoms (extreme tirdness, hacking cough and a very fuzzy head). we had 16 kids in one class absent with swine flue like symptoms.

And i:
Today at my school in Yongin there was an announcement that 3 or 4 students possibly have it. About 5 mins later, a couple guys with a hose came in, evacuated the classrooms and sprayed some fog in the classes. We were told we could return in 10 mins. Come back and have to breathe in that crap for another hour. Everyone was coughing and had a dry throat from that fog. Told my co-teacher they need to spray the students, not the rooms. Shortly thereafter, several students took off and returned with masks from the nurses office.

And rowdie3:
Was called yesterday and told not to come in for a week. School is closed. 25 confirmed cases of H1N1 as of yesterday. Could be more as of today. Crazy! Poor kids too. Just finished all of the stress of midterms and now they are sick. I did love sleeping in and staying in my pj's all day though today.

And xCustomx again:
This is insane. The VP is going around passing out masks and telling all teachers they are required to wear them. I'm the only one he hasn't given one to.

Well, there's a lot there, so just read those two threads on your own. Though schools are taking preventative measures, and have as a result of swine flu finally started encouraging people to wash their hands, I still get coughed on every day by students and teachers who come to work sick. Nonetheless just as the "regular" flu spreads quickly each winter, so too will this new one, and preventative measures should still be maintained.

The Herald says today:
Nearly 30,000 patients infected with the H1N1, a subtype of influenza A, were newly confirmed last week, with the nation's first round of vaccinations scheduled to start today.


aprilantipodal said...

I read this post, then went to my grade two class and watched the teacher handfeed rice cakes to every kid in the class with the same fork. Ugggh.

David Aspden said...

One of my co-workers was tested for swine flu and it cost her 150k for the examination. Isn't that outrageous? No wonder people are dying if treatment costs that much. Had a class today with 22 students in it, which was the lowest I have ever had in a PS.

@ april: How can people be so stupid...?

Ryan.G said...

CLosing the schools would help to stop the spread ONLY if the students stayed at home and isolated themselves during that time period.

But you know what's going to happen? ALl of those students will go out and do stuff in other types of people areas, making it almost completely useless.

What's the point of shutting down the school, if the kids will just pick up the infection from the PC bang they will go to instead?

Brian said...

Exactly, Ryan. It'd make much more sense for people to just self-quarantine themselves, the few in each school that happen to be infected, rather than close all the schools and have the kids go home and play together. But hell, even now people aren't staying home.

I don't want to bad mouth my Korean classes now, and that's not my intention here. But about two weeks ago pretty much everyone was sick, including me. I notice the teacher started muffling her coughs, at least about 50% of them. Sometimes she would cough into a piece of paper she had in front of her. Then she would cough into a stack of papers she had on her desk . . . and then pass them out to us. I'm not a paranoid germophobe, and I won't resort to opening doors with with my sleeve or anything . . . but come on.

I read people commenting here about their schools checking students for fever . . . with the same thermometer. I didn't see it until myself until it was on the news (the checks, not the hygeine).

David, 150K seems really high. I thought they were doing them for free at local health centers. Back in August I was really sick after coming back from Japan, and went to the doctor. He said it was tonsilitis, but said if the symptoms persist to get a test at the city health center. In the US I had a swine flu test and even without insurance it wasn't 150,000. You'd think schools would cover that.

Brian said...

Oh, and I forgot to add, do you think parents would actually permit schools to close for a week? In 2007-08 a lot of public schools in Jeollanam-do wanted to close for a week from Children's Day to Buddha's birthday and give teachers those 10 days or whatever off. Everything was good to go---I had my tickets and hotel in Singapore---but it was cancelled about two weeks in advance because parents complained and said there was no one to look after their children.

A public health concern is different than schools giving their teachers time off, but I wonder how parents would feel about their kids being home for a week? You know that they, in turn, can't take a week off to supervise them.

IrR3ALiSt said...

why does it seem such a huge problem in Korea whereas in the UK more than a million cases have been reported and all the schools are still open?

I agree that closing schools is not the answer, just some proper manners, I mean coughing on your stack of handouts... yuck..

Matt said...

The problem I have is with the hagwons. The hygiene practiced at most hagwons is poor and you have kids from several different schools mingling together. Hagwons are where swine flu is really going to be spread.

Koreamaria said...

I love you. Thanks so much for your hard work in gathering together these tidbits. I appreciate your time and clarity.
P.S. I have gathered two masks so far from the GIPAF events. At each venue there is not only two people dousing entrants in hand sanitizer, but another two handing out masks, and there is always someone video taping (or photo capture) every person who walks into the event. We then get a sticker that says we are "flu free."

Koreamaria said...

My prof in my instructional strategies class had us evaluate this video about how to change people's coughing and sneezing behavior. It's hysterical.


Wandering Ken said...

My school is closing, apparently along with all the schools in the area, for a week starting Thursday. The flu, or something like it, or maybe just the heebie-jeebies, is spreading like wildfire in my school. As the after school teacher in my school, I am going to get a week off, but the regular program teacher is going to have to work. Yeah!!! On the other hand, I am unlikely to be paid for this little bonus time off in the long stretch of no holidays between October 2nd and Christmas. Boo!!!

But what is it going to accomplish? As far as I know they are planning no cleaning of the school. The virus will just sit around patiently until the kids get back. And with the kids possibly being encouraged to get out of parents hair, er, I mean to go out and play with friends and get some exercise, they will continue spreading whatever they have. It's probably just the language barrier with my low English level students, but some of them are at risk because they are close friends with kids who have been diagnosed with the H1N1 flu, but don't seem to know they need to be careful, not just for themselves, but for others around them. I hope I'm wrong. I hope that the information is getting out from the health officials. Of course, the health nurse at the school apparently said that the foreign teachers would have to go home if they had a fever, but said nothing like that about Korean teachers (this is at least third-hand information, so I'm probably being unfair), so maybe it is a vain hope. I guess this is where we should give a big SIGH!!

Mark said...

I spoke to my Korean gf the other day who is an English teacher at a private English academy. She said that Children in her class who turned out positive in the early stages of swine flu, would stay home from public school. But then the parents would send them to the English academy after school to catch up on lost study time, hence giving it to other students. She said she will talk to the princple about sending the sick children home. Now she herself is sick. I those parents either need to be educated or punished.

Chad said...

Brian, I can confirm prices of 150,000 won for H1N1 tests. My co-teacher and I called the Gyeonggi Provincial Medical Center yesterday, and they are charging 150,000 a test. Afterward, I called Ajou University Hospital and they said they are charging 50,000 won. Furthermore, Ajou said that if you test positive for SI you will need to have additional tests (a PPR test or something), which costs over 100,000.

In the States doctors and clinics aren't even bothering with H1N1 tests anymore. The CDC issued a statement saying it was pointless since the majority of flu-like cases probably are SI. Furthermore, the recommended course of treatment for the regular seasonal flu, the new h1N1 strain or a severe cold is the same (barring any serious respiratory complications): stay home, rest, drink lots of fluids. It's a waste of time, money and resources to test for a flu virus that has already reached an advanced epidemic status.

The PS in Suwon where I work has had a huge spike in absentee rates this week. Yesterday I was told 50% of the 5th and 6th population was out with flu-like symptoms. I don't think any major action (such as shutting down the schools) can arrest the spread of the virus now. It's too late. It's here and it's pandemic. Still, I wouldn't mind the extra time off if they did decide to close shop for a week. Anyways, personal hygiene and common sense are the best defenses now.

Also, it's useless to spray/chemically disinfect the schools if they are closed down for a week. The H1N1 virus cannot survive outside a human host for more than 48 hours, at the most.