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Sick kids plague Detroit Lakes schools

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It's early in the school year, but illness is already taking a toll in Detroit Lakes schools.

"We had a run yesterday on kids leaving," Detroit Lakes Superintendent Doug Froke said Tuesday.

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The day started with 8-10 kids staying home sick, but another 14 went home sick within the first several hours of school, and another eight students went home sick within a few hours after that.

"This is really unusual for a Monday," Froke said. "We were hoping the weekend would stem some of this -- the kids being outside in nice weather might slow things down a bit, but it didn't happen that way."

Illnesses range from colds to intestinal illnesses to respiratory flu.

"We've got a mix," Froke said. "It seems to be running its course in 4-5 days when kids or staff get it -- apparently it's kind of rough."

The district doesn't know if any of the illness is related to the H1N1 flu. "If we don't get a confirmation from a doctor that it is, then we're treating it as seasonal flu," Froke said. No such confirmations have been received at this point, he added.

In general, staff at all four school buildings in Detroit Lakes report that absenteeism is higher this year than at the same time last year, he added.

He urged parents to keep kids home as long as necessary for a full recovery. "Some are coming back before they're ready and that sets them back further -- we want to make sure they don't relapse."

School superintendents from the area are meeting several times a month with county health officials to learn the latest on H1N1 flu and any possible immunization plan.

"We meet for about an hour -- they are passing information on to us so we can plan accordingly," Froke said.

Immunization plans for the H1N1 (swine) flu are a work in progress. "It initially started as a two-shot protocol, now it's a one-shot (protocol)," Froke said. There is also talk of a possible inhalant that could be used instead of a shot.

Becker County Public Health Director Ronda Stock said she is in contact with state health officials and passes the latest word to superintendents at the twice-monthly meetings.

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