Flu takes a toll in county schools

?School officials hope the worst has past

School officials in Marion County reported dips in attendance because of flu-type illnesses in late January and early February, but all agreed the worst is behind them.

Marion Elementary School was probably the hardest hit with the flu bug and colds, according to information Lee Leiker, superintendent of the Marion School District provided.

?One day we had a high absence (at the MES), but we are back to normal,? he said.

?We had about 75 (of the 265 MES students) absent Monday, Feb. 2, but Tuesday we had a lot fewer absences, Wednesday a lot fewer and by Thursday, we were clear back to normal. It was not long-lasting at all.?

When it comes to prevention, Leiker said the district will communicate with parents, but that he believes the custodians do a good job of disinfecting, and spend a lot of time at it.

?Our staff takes a big part in keeping things as healthy as possible,? he said, ?by sending home reminders (periodically) about illnesses and kids getting plenty of rest and washing their hands.?

Hillsboro School District?s nurse Alissa Unruh said they didn?t see the numbers that Marion did.

?We did see an increase in absences with our highest number out on Monday, Feb. 2,? she said.

?We had around 12 percent absent at our Elementary School with an enrollment of 310,? she said.

About 13 percent were absent in sixth through 12th grade school with the enrollment at 268 absent.

?Our absences have decreased since the beginning of the week,? Unruh added.

?As of Thursday we were down below 10 percent of the total school enrollment for each of the two buildings.?

Unruh added that they have received reports of children/adolescents testing positive for either influenza A and B or sometimes both.

Other students, she said, have influenza like illnesses that include fever, cough, and sore throat.

?We also have students out with various symptoms that include gastrointestinal illnesses, earaches, strep throat, cold or upper respiratory symptoms, sinusitis, and or rash.?

Unruh said during times like this they encourage parents to keep children at home when they are ill.

?They need to remain out of school for at least 24 hours after his or her fever is gone, and please talk to your child?s doctor if they are worried about their child?s symptoms,? she said.

Another way to prevent the spread of illness, she said, is to encourage children to cover their coughs and sneezes.

?Parent?s should disinfectant surfaces, and everyone should wash hands often,? she said.

Peabody School District has experienced ups and downs regarding illnesses and absenteeism, said Ron Traxson, superintendent.

?We had 15 illnesses on Monday,? he said, ?with an average of about 10 to 12 absent from the elementary school.?

Peabody High School had a lot of students sick for a couple of days last week, he added, but the numbers have not dipped low enough to consider taking an extended weekend or other actions.

?About the time we can?t lose anymore, they come back in,? he said. ?We have had nothing sustained for any length of time or large numbers missing.?

Most of the illnesses have been flu-related, but there were three cases of strep throat recently.

?It?s kind of normal this time of year (to see more absences), but the main thing is for students to wash their hands and let parents know their children need plenty of sleep.?

With 255 students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade at Peabody, Traxson said it would take a lot of students getting ill for them to consider options.

?The crucial point would be 50 percent (absenteeism),? he said.

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