The Highland School District hopes 2018 and a new semester will bring less sick students.
“Hopefully, we can survive through this week and get everyone off to Christmas break and recoup a little bit,” said Superintendent Mike Sutton during last month’s school board meeting.
Before winter break, Sutton said schools were averaging about 130 students absences per day across the district.
“This is higher than normal, but not enough to consider any drastic action,” Sutton said.
Sutton said the sickness didn’t just hit the students. Staff felt it as well, with over 20 staff members being out on average.
“It’s been really difficult to get substitutes,” Sutton said.
While he said there were a variety of symptoms across the district, Sutton said the majority could be chalked up to the flu. As flu season continues, Sutton said student absences will continue be a concern as there have been indications that flu will be an issue this season.
So far, so good
Students returned to class last Thursday from winter break.
“I think the break definitely helped,” Sutton said.
Though the number of absences have risen, Sutton said the numbers being reported by each school are “actually pretty good,” except for absences reported by Highland Middle School.
On the first day back, there were 166 students out, with 69 students out at the middle school. Sutton also relayed that the number of teacher absences decreased with only 12 teachers being absent.
“Some may have been due to the weather as well,” Sutton said.
Only Monday, there were 119 students out, and nine teachers.
“The numbers are much better than prior to Christmas break,” Sutton said.
The district sent letters home to the primary students’ parents a week before break started. The letters stressed parents to reinforce hand washing and reminded to keep students home when showing signs of flu, according to Sutton.
Sutton also said that the district has also been doing extra cleaning in the classrooms to prevent spreading of any illnesses.
“I will continue to monitor numbers, and our nurses will remain in contact with the Madison County Health Department for guidance as needed,” Sutton said.
Why is this season bad?
The Centers for Disease Control said this year’s influenza season got an early start and is anticipated to be worse than usual.
In August, the Australians reported a bad flu season this year with more than 3.5 times the number of cases reported in its most populous regions. While Australian flu reports are not an absolute predictor, the numbers usually serve as a rough measure for the next flu season in the Northern Hemisphere.
Another contributing factor could be because of a vaccine mishap, according to a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which stated that that this year’s vaccine have been mismatched for the strains taking hold this year. At the start of December it was said that this year’s vaccine was about 10 percent effective, according to KMOV. But, medical experts say a less effective vaccine is better than no vaccine at all because it helps limit the infection and recuperation time for the flu.
Reports are starting to suggest Illinois has been feeling the effects of the sickness.
From Dec. 10 to Dec. 30, flu cases were considered “widespread” by the Illinois Department of Public Health, meaning there was an increase in at least half the state’s regions. So far 344 patients have been admitted into Illinois intensive care units for flu treatment, with 130 of those patients being admitted from Dec. 24 to Dec. 30. So far there has been one flu-associated pediatric death in the state, and as of Dec. 30, two people have died from the flu in central Illinois.
Metro-east hospitals recently started to adjust patient visit guidelines due to the increase in flu cases in emergency rooms and admitted patients. HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital in Highland, and HSHS Holy Family Hospital in Greenville joined the list of hospitals on Dec. 29.
A recent press release from Anderson Hospital in Maryville indicated flu stats in the area are up as well, stating that “this year’s severe strain of the influenza virus is shaping up to create one of the worst flu seasons in recent history. In 2016, there were 49 positive flu swabs out of 351 collected at Anderson Hospital. In 2017, there were 1179 positive flu swabs out of 4848 collected.
“That’s a 96 percent increase in the number of positive flu swabs and a 93 percent increase in the number collected,” said Doris Driscoll, RN, Infection Control Nurse at Anderson. “The other part of this story, besides the sheer numbers, is the acuity of the patients is much higher this season.”
Hospitals have asked visitors to respect restrictions in place to help protect patients and staff from outside germs, as well as to stop anyone from leaving the hospitals with germs.
BND reporter Elizabeth Donald contributed to this story.
About the flu
Symptoms of the flu
According to the CDC, flu symptoms include:
▪ Fever or feeling feverish or chills;
▪ sore throat;
▪ runny or stuffy nose;
▪ muscle or body aches;
▪ some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
Places to get your flu vaccine near Highland
▪ Madison County Health Department, 101 E. Edwardsville Road., Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays during normal clinic hours.
▪ Walgreens located at 110 Walnut St. in Highland.
▪ CVS Pharmacy located at 12630 State Route 143 in Highland.