Custodian John Garcia cleans a desk at St. Mel's Catholic School, in Fair Oaks, Calif., Monday, April 27. The school will be closed until at least Thursday while health officials determine if a seventh grader has a flu linked to the swine flu outbreak, according to an e-mail sent to parents.
Health officials in Contra Costa County are testing a "cluster" of children who attend Marina Vista Elementary School in Pittsburg for swine flu today after eight students reported feeling ill, according to Contra Costa Director of Public Health Dr. Wendel Brunner.
Highland Elementary School, which is also in Pittsburg, and Branham High School in San Jose were closed today after four students were identified as probable cases. Both schools will remain closed until May 6.
A public school in San Bernardino is also closed as well as a private school in Sacramento, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said at a news conference in Pleasant Hill.
As of Wednesday morning, there were 14 confirmed cases of swine flu in California and a total of 91 confirmed cases nationwide. One person in Texas has died from the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health officials are urging parents not to send their children to school if they are sick.
"We're asking people if they're sick to stay home," Brunner said.
People should also take precautions, such as washing their hands with soap and hot water and covering their mouths with their arms when they cough, to prevent the spread of the disease. People should stay home for at least 24 hours after they stop experiencing symptoms to avoid infecting others.
Health officials are also urging people not to panic. While the H1N1 virus is a new virus that people don't have a natural immunity to, most people in the United States who have come down with the illness reported mild symptoms, according to Brunner.
The illness also responds well to anti-viral drugs that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been stockpiling.
"If your child is healthy, he or she should go to school," Contra Costa County Superintendent Joseph Ovick said.
Schools are required to have safety plans that include response to a pandemic flu.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in response to the virus Tuesday morning, which allows the California Emergency Management Agency to work with the state Department of Public Health to prevent the disease from spreading, governor's spokesman Jeff Macedo said.
The swine flu outbreak was first reported in the U.S. in late March in Southern California and Texas, according to health officials. It is spread mainly person-to-person through coughing and sneezing.
According to Brunner, an estimate 30,000 people in the U.S. die each year from the seasonal flu.