- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 2, 2009

Four Maryland schools have closed due to suspected cases of swine flu, as new cases of the virus have been identified across the region.

Gov. Martin O’Malley issued a public health emergency and ordered the closing of Rockville High School in Montgomery County, Montpelier Elementary School in Prince George’s County, Folger McKinsey Elementary School in Anne Arundel County and Milford Mill Academy in Baltimore County. Each of the schools has reported at least one case of suspected swine flu.

Mr. O’Malley said he ordered the closings after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a directive on Friday afternoon to close any school for up to 14 days in the event of suspected cases.

“The more that is learned about this disease, the more that we will have to evolve and make changes to our policies,” Mr. O’Malley said.

Frances B. Phillips, Maryland’s deputy secretary for health and mental hygiene, said that three new probable cases have been identified since Thursday, including a 21-year-old physically disabled student at Rockville High School, a 30-year-old man in Charles County, and an 8-year-old student at Montpelier Elementary School. There are now 11 probable cases in the state, including three in Anne Arundel County, four in Baltimore County, two in Montgomery County, one in Prince George’s County and one in Charles County.

Ms. Phillips said that the Rockville and Prince George’s County cases are more troublesome than the others because they cannot trace the infection to recent travel to Mexico, where the deadly H1N1 virus is believed to have originated.

“This puts us at a heightened level of vigilance,” she said.

Officials in Anne Arundel County said Folger McKinsey Elementary will be closed for five days, while in Baltimore County officials say Milford Mill Academy will be closed until May 7.

In Prince George’s county, spokesman John White said Montpelier Elementary will be closed for the 14 days as advised by the CDC.

Dr. Ulder J. Tillman, Montgomery County director of health, said that Rockville High School would be shut down until officials investigate how the student contracted the virus and ensure no other student is put at risk. The school may reopen Monday if no other students report having flu-like symptoms.

At least 300 schools across the country have been closed due to the nationwide outbreak of swine flu.

Ms. Phillips said there will be a statewide toll-free information line to answer questions about swine flu. The number is 1-877-MDFLU4U (or 1-877-633-5848).

The school closings in Maryland comes as both Virginia and the District saw their first confirmed or probable cases of swine flu since the outbreak began last week. Two confirmed cases have been reported in eastern and central Virginia, and two probable cases were reported in the District involving students at George Washington University.

District officials said the two students are freshman girls and roommates, and that one of the students had traveled abroad. University officials say that final exams, which are scheduled to begin next week, will not be canceled, and that university commencement will also go on as planned.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said that both students are recovering.

“Thankfully, both of the individuals appear to be recovering well,” he said.

District residents may call 311 for the latest information on swine flu, or the Metropolitan Police Department’s non-emergency number 202-737-4404.

Tests are being conducted on probable cases by the CDC in Atlanta, with confirmation possibly coming as early as Saturday.

The only confirmed cases of swine flu in the region are in Virginia. The state’s Department of Health said that two patients diagnosed with swine flu include a man from eastern Virginia and a woman from central Virginia. State Health Commissioner Karen Remley said both had traveled to Mexico and experienced mild illnesses that did not require hospitalization. Neither are students.



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