12 from Hawaii still in quarantine in S. Korea
By Mary Vorsino
Advertiser Staff Writer
Ten Hawai'i students and two chaperones remain in quarantine in South Korean hospitals over swine flu concerns and likely will not be cleared until tomorrow or the weekend, officials with the Korean consulate in Honolulu said.
Meanwhile, 11 other students on the study trip and two chaperones have received health clearances. The students and one chaperone will start touring the country today, while one of the cleared chaperones will stay behind to help those in quarantine.
Five students have confirmed cases of swine flu and are being quarantined at the National Hospital in Seoul. Five other students and two chaperones may have the illness and are at a separate hospital waiting for confirmation.
All of those on the trip, even those with confirmed cases of swine flu, are said to feel fine.
Parents of those on the trip were reassured yesterday that their children were OK and several talked with their children or communicated with them by e-mail. The students on the trip, organized by the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council in Honolulu, come from schools statewide.
Justin Dinong, whose 17-year-old daughter Brittni is on the trip, said he has been assured that all of the kids are fine and that there's nothing to worry about. His daughter, who just graduated from Wai'anae High School, did not test positive for swine flu, he said.
Dinong said yesterday he's been in contact with his daughter, who told him that the group is a little frustrated by the quarantine but otherwise OK. "Some situations, you can't foresee," Dinong said. "If you look at it in a positive way, it's a good learning experience."
The Korean consulate in Honolulu said the quarantine of the students and their chaperones is a standard procedure instituted to stop the spread of swine flu. The group arrived in Seoul on Monday on a Japan Airlines flight that stopped in Tokyo. At Seoul Inchon Airport, five of the students were found to have elevated temperatures and were quarantined until more tests could be conducted.
The original itinerary for the trip shows the students leaving South Korea on July 5. In a statement, the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council said the students in hospitals will likely resume their trip once the quarantine is lifted.
The council annually takes students to Asia on two-week study trips.
Two of the students on the trip graduated from Wai'anae High School this year, and went along to make a documentary of the tour. The rest of the students are still in high school.
The students who went to South Korea underwent a health screening before they left and were required to submit a doctor's certificate that cleared them for travel by June 12, said Ruth Limtiaco, a spokeswoman and board member for the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council. She added that everyone on the trip was "deemed healthy."
Limtiaco also said yesterday that the students on the trip are in "good spirits" — though they are complaining of boredom.
"They are doing their lessons and homework, reading, watching English language television and DVDs," Limtiaco said in a news release.
They are also reaching out to friends in the Islands through Web sites, including Twitter and Facebook. Martinea Trippett, who knows the two students on the trip who are making a documentary, said they are trying to make the best of things.
"They were playing games, browsing the Internet," she said.
Chaperones on the trip reiterated in a statement yesterday that the students feel healthy.
"The students ... are anxious to begin our tour," said Natasha Chappel, high school program director for PAAC and a trip chaperone. "They are being extremely patient, cooperative and understanding. They are making the best of the situation."
The students are not the first visitors to South Korea to get stopped at the airport because of swine flu concerns. Jae-hyon Cho, who is on the city desk of The Korea Times newspaper, said several other passengers have been quarantined as well, including an American teacher in May. And earlier this month, an Australian lacrosse team was confined to a hotel for five days after one member of the team was diagnosed with swine flu.
Cho said people in South Korea are not panicked about a swine flu outbreak, but they do support precautionary measures, such as the thermal imaging cameras installed in airports that scan incoming passengers for fevers.Advertiser Staff writer Christie Wilson contributed to this report.