Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Flu-like illness hits area schools hard late in semester

J-E News Editor
Many area schools were hard hit by illness during the last two weeks of the semester. Students in Webster County managed to make it to Christmas Break in better shape than most, but not without some problems.
Providence Elementary was the hardest hit by illness with absences getting as high as 93 during the last week of the semester. There were also a number of teachers and staff members off sick as well.

“It’s not just the flu,” Providence Principal Greg Bowles said on Friday. “We had kids sick with bronchitis and stomach problems as well.”
According to Bowles, the support staff at Providence really stepped up to make the situation as manageable as possible when early signs of illness showed themselves the previous week.
“Our custodians have been doing extra rounds everyday, wiping down desks, lockers,” he explained. “If it’s touchable, they’ve cleaned it. They’ve also been doing extra at night and we had some come in over the weekend to help get started early.”
Bowles said the school has been in close contact with the district administration, who were monitoring the situation carefully.
“District-wide we’ve not fallen far below the 85 percent attendance mark,” said Todd Marshall, DPP of Webster County Schools. “On Friday, Dixon and Sebree were at 94 percent, the High School was at 90 and the middle school was at 85. Providence was the worst hit, they got down to 78 percent attendance during the week.”
Marshall went on to say that the majority of cases were in the kindergarten and first grade classes.
“Hopefully the two weeks off will allow everyone to get rested and felling better before school starts back,” said Marshall.
Nearby Dawson Springs School system wasn’t so lucky. They canceled all class for Thursday, December 18 and Friday, December 19 due primarily to flu-like illnesses. On Friday, December 19, attendance, which usually averages above 96 percent, was down to 93 percent. By Monday morning that had dropped to 87 percent with 85 students out district wide. Nine teachers and administrators and three staff members were absent on Tuesday.
“I have not seen, specifically in this area, test results coming back yet showing the flu,” said Dr. Tristan Lineberry at Health First CHC in Providence. “As far as I am concerned, I just try to look at people and see if they are sick or not. The flu, it’s the worst cold you’ll ever get.”
Lab test used to determine whether or not a patient has the flu can take up to two weeks to come back from the lab.
Earlier this month the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) released the warning that the 2014-2015 Flu Season could be more severe that usual.
“Normal mutations to one of the active flu strains mean that this season’s flu vaccine may be less effective at protecting you against the flu,” said the website. “People who get the vaccine, however, are still protected against two common flu strains and may experience milder symptoms if they get the mutated strain.”
There are steps you can take in your daily life to help protect you from getting the flu.

•Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
•Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.
•Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
•Practice good health habits. Get plenty of sleep and exercise, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthy food.
•Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
•If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “Children younger than 6 months are at higher risk of serious flu complications, but are too young to get a flu vaccine. Because of this, safeguarding them from flu is especially important. If you live with or care for an infant younger than 6 months of age, you should get a flu vaccine to help protect them from flu”

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