Swine flu has been detected in students at one Vancouver Island school, and is suspected in at least two other in Vancouver.

At least three schools in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island appear to be suffering from an outbreak of swine flu and parents are being asked to keep sick children at home.

Up to one-third of students at Elsie Roy Elementary School in downtown Vancouver were kept home by parents this week with many reporting flu-like symptons, while at Notre Dame Regional School tests are underway to determine if several students there have the H1N1 strain or another seasonal flu.

About 30 students at Shawnigan Lake School on southern Vancouver Island have also reported flu-like symptoms, and tests have confirmed at least some of the cases are swine flu.

Keep sick children home

School officials in many districts have asked parents to keep their children at home if they appear to have flu symptoms, which include cough, fever, headache, sore throat and muscle aches.

While serious illness from the virus is rare, it does appear to spread rapidly in younger people because of their low immunity to the H1N1 strain. Those born before 1957 are more likely to have developed some immunity from exposure to previous strains of flu.

Children with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or a problem with the immune system should be taken to a doctor immediately to get a prescription for an anti-viral drug, health officials recommend. Anti-viral drugs work best when started within 24-48 hours of the start of symptoms.

Last week a widespread outbreak of the swine flu was detected on several First Nations reserves on Vancouver Island. In total at least six people have died from the swine flu in B.C. this year, but all had previous health conditions.

More than 50 people have also been hospitalized with the virus, say health officials.