(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The number of cases of influenza is on the rise in the United States, and schools are one of the most vulnerable places for the flu to spread. The St. Joseph School District is taking extra precautions in handling this year’s super bug.
“As of Tuesday, we have had about 26 confirmed cases of influenza,” St.Joseph School District Health Service Coordinator Maria Burnham said “Although we are looking at just a small number of confirmed [cases] we have seen a lot of students and staff with flu like symptoms.”
School officials said the number of students getting the flu is not uncommon during the winter months.
Kendra Lau, Director of Assessment and professional Development for the St. Joseph School District, said students getting sick is unfortunate, but not surprising.
“We had anticipated this, because historically when we look at attendance data across the district, kids and families get sick at this time of year,” Lau said.
School officials said students being out of the classroom because of illness isn’t shocking. But with the severity of this years flu, the district is taking extra precautions to keep classrooms clean during flu season.
“Our maintenance staff is wiping down with what they call a hospital grade disinfectant, so they’re hitting all those communal areas. Drinking fountains, door knobs, things like that, that everyone is touching,” Burnham said.
The school has seen a seven percent drop in attendance during the month of January and a .64 percent drop overall due to illness related absences.
“We know barriers to health almost exactly mirror barriers to attendance. We are encouraged that our healthcare and our attendance, while it is a tough month, we are doing better than this time last year,” Lau said.
Schools have been using the flu outbreak as a teaching tool to remind students of the importance of developing healthy habits.
“We’ve had our nurses getting into the classrooms, educating on the importance of handwashing; the importances of getting plenty of rest and the importance of hydration, that's really huge,” Burnham said.
If your child is already sick, Burnham recommends separating them from the rest of the family; make sure they are getting plenty of rest and fluids and using paper towels instead of communal hand towels in places like the bathroom if there is someone sick at home.
“We as the school nurses ask that your child be fever free for 24 hours without fever reducing medication before you send them back,” Burnham said.
The school district is recommending parents keep their children home if they have and symptoms like fever, chills, nausea and vomiting, and if the symptoms last longer than 24 hours to schedule an appointment with the family doctor.