H1N1 flu keeps hundreds of students home

Twelve-year-old Bailey Jutting is one of many home sick with the H1N1 flu.

Bailey, who now wears a mask, had the flu since Saturday and stays in the family's basement so the virus doesn't spread.

"We're keeping him away from" his siblings, said his mother, Tiffani Jutting. "He has his own trash downstairs. He's drinking lots of fluids."

The flu kept hundreds of other Jefferson City students out of class Tuesday.

Bailey attends seventh grade at the Lewis and Clark Middle School - one of the schools hit hardest by the virus. On Tuesday, 130 kids called in sick, according to school officials. That's 13 percent of the school's population.

"That's a significant number there," said David Luther with Jefferson City Public Schools. "That's higher than we would usually see this time of year. And higher than we'd normally see in general."

At St. Mary's the number of people coming in with flu-like symptoms is also up. "We've been seeing a lot more flu cases lately," said Patrick Walker, a hospital spokesman.

The school district sent out a letter notifying parents about the H1N1 virus and posted it on their Web site. The district's following both CDC and Cole County Health Department recommendations, which allow students to return to class 24 hours after their fever's gone.

"I think our school nurses and teachers are doing a great job of handling this," said Luther. "But, naturally, it causes challenges for us."

With a vaccine for the H1N1 flu virus not expected for at least six weeks, parents are hoping it doesn't continue to spread. The district has relaxed their ban on hand sanitizers and students can now carry small containers to class.

Bailey's mother, Tiffani, says the district isn't doing enough.

"They don't know how to handle it, I guess," said Jutting. "I mean they're no more sure of how to handle it than we are...I just think there's a lot of confusion in the community in general. People are scared."

She says little things, like requesting her son's homework, has been a hassle. Luther says there's a "homework hotline" and some work has been posted online for students to download.

For now, Bailey's staying inside, trying to get better and eager to get back to school.

The district said they will continue to assess the situation but right now has no plans to close any schools.

Click here to read tips on keeping safe from the H1N1 flu.