School-borne illnesses appear to be seasonal

Published 10:15 pm Friday, August 28, 2009

Demopolis City Schools has confirmed that it has sent a number of sick students home since school opened on Aug. 11, but those students had a number of illnesses, including seasonal flu and strep throat.

“We are following the state guidelines (regarding sending students home),” said Demopolis City Schools head nurse Geraldine Walker. “That includes having a fever above 100 degrees, sore throat, chills, cough and general appearance.

“We had some with sore throats who did not have fever. We’ve got to distinguish between allergies and cold or flu, because a lot of them have sinus drainage because they have seasonal allergies. That’s why we are checking fevers and looking in throats.”

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“We don’t want anybody to get into a panic, but we want everybody to be aware that it’s here,” she said. “They just need to prepare.”

Interim superintendent Dr. Neil Hyche said there were some cases of the H1N1 flu, but those were not school-related.

“We have had a few excessive absences at some schools, but they did not turn out to be flu,” he said. “I got a memo from the state schools superintendent that as long as the illness rate for a particular school or the entire system was less than 10 percent, it did not warrant closing the schools.

“I did instruct our nurse and the two aides that — particularly in the elementary schools — the teachers were to sanitize desks, doorknobs and at child nutrition, were they key in their lunchroom charge numbers, several times a day.

“I really don’t think we have a problem yet,” he said. “By making contacts with the nurse daily, and her keeping in touch with the hospital and health department and requiring our teachers to do sanitizing procedures, I feel pretty good about it.”

Walker said that if a student tells his parents that he isn’t feeling well, then they need to check his temperature. When a student is fever-free for 24 hours without taking fever-preventing medication, he can come back to school.

“I would recommend to parents to buy a lot of cleaning stuff,” she said. “Things like Lysol, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes. We are asking parents to donate these kinds of cleaning products to the schools if they can, to help keep us in supply. They can just spray the air, too, because the flu is airborne.

“There are other things they can do like use diluted bleach in a spray bottle and just spray down things with that.”

To dilute bleach, pour a capful of bleach into the spray bottle, then fill the bottle with water. If you do this, you will have to change it out every day to be sure it disinfects.

“We are planning to have a flu clinic,” Walker said. “The parents will be sent notifications. It will be on a volunteer basis only. We can’t just give the students a shot because they’re in the system; the parents have to sign for it, if they want their children to have a flu shot.”

To help prevent the spread of flu, people should sanitize phones, countertops, keyboards and other often-touched surfaces regularly and often. People should sneeze into the crook of their elbow and drink plenty of fluids, especially water or juice.