Five students get flu after one visits Mexico, shuts down private school

BATON ROUGE – A private school in Lafayette is closed because five students have the flu, though officials don’t know whether it is swine flu, Gov. Bobby Jindal said Wednesday.The closing is a precaution because one of the ailing sixth-graders was recently in Mexico, where experts say the swine flu outbreak may have started, Jindal said.

Doctors did a quick test to see whether the students have one of two broad types of flu. It was Type A, which includes swine flu. If a more detailed state test cannot rule out swine flu, the samples will go to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

The state test takes 6 hours, and it probably would take 24 to 48 hours to get results from any CDC tests, said Jolie Adams, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Hospitals.

“This can increase based on volume, but … everything is being done to do this as quickly as possible,” she wrote in an e-mail.

The students are among about 800 at Cathedral Carmel, a Roman Catholic school which teaches kindergarten through eighth grade.

Jindal said it will be closed Thursday and Friday.

If it is swine flu, “we’ve got an epidemiological plan in place, as does the CDC,” Jindal said.

Officials stressed that the specific flu strain is not yet known.

“What sets this apart is that we know that one of the children had been in Mexico,” Alan Levine, secretary of the state Department of Health and Hospitals, said during an afternoon news conference with Jindal.

Coincidentally, Jindal said, a group of students from Cathedral Carmel visited the Capitol on Wednesday and met with the governor and some legislators.

The announcement came as Louisiana added to its stockpile of antiviral drugs in case of an epidemic.

Adams said Louisiana already had enough antiviral drugs to treat 464,803 adults and 64,165 children, and received enough for 167,250 people this week from the federal stockpile. The state stockpile is in addition to supplies available through private doctors and pharmacies.

The only U.S. swine flu death so far was that of a Mexican toddler visiting relatives in Texas; nine other states also have confirmed cases of swine flu.