Flu hits Sparks school

RENO -- Nine new cases of swine flu were confirmed Thursday in Northern Nevada, including eight more students at a Sparks middle school that has been closed through Memorial Day to help prevent the illness from spreading.

The eight additional cases involving students at the middle school and a ninth child younger than school age push Washoe County's total to 19.

Crews were using a disinfectant solution to wash down all surfaces at Mendive Middle School where 13 students have been sickened by the H1N1 virus. It's the only school in Nevada to have been closed because of the flu.

State health officer Dr. Mary Guinan said Thursday that the school closure occurred after local health and education officials noted that there was a high absentee rate at the school in addition to a tight cluster of swine flu cases.

Guinan said local school officials told her the absentee rate was at about 18 percent compared with the usual number of around 4 percent.

"They (local officials) thought it was a good idea to close the school to prevent the spread of the disease and they asked me to concur with that," Guinan said. "And I did."

One student had been hospitalized but was discharged Thursday, Washoe County District Health Department spokeswoman Judy Davis said.

Davis had no immediate information on the conditions of the students.

Rose Kibala, who attends Mendive, said the student who was hospitalized was a friend who she had been communicating with via text messages.

"She's well enough to text. They caught it in the early stages," Kibala told KOLO-TV.

The suburban Sparks school with more than 900 seventh- and eight-graders on the northeast edge of town was closed Wednesday night after five cases were confirmed there. It is scheduled to reopen Tuesday.

Swine flu has sickened more than 11,000 people in 41 countries and killed 85, according to the World Health Organization, whose figures often trail those of individual countries. Mexico has reported 75 deaths, the U.S. 10, and one in both Canada and Costa Rica.

Review-Journal writer Paul Harasim and Associated Press writer Sandra Chereb contributed to this report.