First schoolchild with swine flu

A 16-year-old Thessaloniki schoolgirl who was diagnosed with swine flu over the weekend is continuing her medical treatment from home, while lessons continue as normal at her secondary school following the disinfection of the premises, authorities revealed yesterday. The development came as a 23-year-old woman from New Zealand was transferred to the intensive-care unit of an Athens hospital with serious respiratory problems, having tested positive for the H1N1 virus. The New Zealand tourist brings the number of serious cases of swine flu recorded in Greece to 15 with just one death linked exclusively to the virus. Doctors who treated the girl at the northern city’s G. Gennimatas General Hospital played down the infection – the first of a schoolchild reported in Greece to date, stressing that the teenager was suffering from a mild strain of the H1N1 virus. But the doctors noted that they had received many visits over the past few months from schoolchildren and adults displaying symptoms of H1N1. The director of the girl’s school struck a reassuring note. «It’s a mild case and there is no cause for concern that could lead to the closure of the school,» he told Kathimerini. Still authorities have taken precautionary measures, disinfecting the entire school complex and asking teachers to provide pupils with a daily briefing on health and safety guidelines. Maintaining an adequate level of hygiene at schools does not appear to be a straightforward task due to a shortage of cleaning staff. An estimated 7,500 cleaners are available to clean the country’s 15,000 schools. «We don’t have time to follow the new health and safety guidelines to the letter,» said Stella Gerasimatou, head of the national cleaners’ association. Questioned by Kathimerini about the shortages, a spokesperson for the Education Ministry said that the ministry had sent out a circular to regional educational authorities, informing them that they could hire as many additional cleaning staff as they believe they need.