Some schools are seeing a high number of absences as flu season hits its peak, while others say they’re seeing the usual number of absences they expect for this time of year.
Highland schools are reporting an unusually high number of student absences due to illness. Students have been diagnosed with strep throat or influenza B, including high fevers, sore throat, cough and headache.
Highland High School principal Karen Gauen reminded parents in an email that if a child has a fever, he or she should not be sent to school until the fever has passed for at least 24 hours without medication.
Granite City District 9 has reported very slight increases in kindergarten absences in January due to influenza, according to Superintendent Jim Greenwald and the district’s head nurse, June Oney, but not district-wide increases.
“We want good regular attendance, but not if the child is legitimately ill,” Greenwald said. “We want our children feeling good in order to do their best.”
I wouldn’t say it’s extremely high, certainly not as high as Highland or other places are seeing. There’s a certain level where we would report it to the health department, and we’re not anywhere near that level.
Adam Garrett, special education director at Edwardsville School District
In Triad District 2, the most absences have also been at the pre-kindergarten and elementary buildings. “Typically, we have about 96 percent or higher attendance rate at our elementary buildings, and within the last two weeks it has dropped to about a 90 percent attendance rate,” said Superintendent Leigh Lewis. Like Highland, Lewis said the most common illnesses reported are influenza and strep throat.
In Edwardsville, absences are running at about 5 percent per building, which is not unusual, according to special education director Adam Garrett.
“I wouldn’t say it’s extremely high, certainly not as high as Highland or other places are seeing,” Garrett said. “There’s a certain level where we would report it to the health department, and we’re not anywhere near that level.”
“(Belleville East High School) had a few more reports of the flu last week, but numbers seem to be back to normal this week,” said Superintendent Jeff Dosier.
Influenza is not a reportable disease in Illinois, so there are no accurate figures at the local or state level to confirm how many people are getting sick. The Illinois Department of Public Health reports that there have been 139 intensive-care admissions related to influenza with 38 outbreaks statewide. Spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said the flu activity in Illinois is considered to be widespread.
“Flu is unpredictable, so it’s difficult to tell how long the season will last and how severe it will be,” Arnold said.
Amy Yaeger of the Madison County Health Department said while they do not track influenza or strep, they do pay attention to what their clinic’s nurses and other clinics across the county are seeing.
“Anecdotally, it’s all over the county; we’ve heard about it everywhere,” Yaeger said. “Which is not unusual because it is the peak of the season. The best thing we can encourage people to do is follow preventative measures.”
That’s “clean, cover and contain” — wash your hands often and thoroughly, cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, and stay home when you get sick so you don’t contaminate others.
The schools in particular underline the importance of keeping children home when they are ill, so they don’t infect their fellow students and can recover more quickly.
And if you haven’t gotten a flu shot yet, Yaeger said it’s not too late. The health department offers flu shots three days a week at their clinic: 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Mondays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays. The clinic is closed from noon to 1 p.m. The shots are offered on a walk-in basis, and the clinic takes most insurance plans. For more information, Yaeger said to call the clinic at 618-692-8954, ext. 2.
In addition, doctor’s offices, pharmacies and even retail outlets have been offering flu shots regularly, Yaeger said.