Flu causing students to bug out

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Local school officials are noticing more student absences attributed to the flu or flu-like symptoms recently, leading to more cautious behaviors among teachers and administration.

Columbia school superintendent Dr. Gina Segobiano told the Republic-Times her schools are seeing a lot of flu activity, but also a lot of stomach issues and even strep throat. She did not confirm whether numbers are higher than this time last year.

“The teachers are doing a lot of hand washing, using sanitizer to clean desktops and door knobs, and spraying a lot of Lysol,” she said.

Additionally, Waterloo school superintendent Brian Charron said many of his students’ absences over the past few weeks are attributed to flu-like symptoms. He also indicated that the numbers are certainly higher than last year, causing teachers and administrators to monitor the situation.

Meanwhile, Valmeyer school superintendent Eric Frankford said that even with the spike in flu cases among his students, overall student absences are not much higher than an average month.

“Every year, schools have stretches where attendance drops due to something going around,” Frankford said. “This year was not any different; however, diagnosed cases of the flu seem to have been what the kids were catching and that tends to be more concerning than a run-of-the-mill cold or stomach bug.”

Frankford said K-5 student attendance for February is currently at 89.8 percent, but that it is already on an upward trend. He expects these students to finish the month at about 94 percent attendance.

Last February, K-5 student attendance came out to a slightly higher 96.6 percent.

Similar to the superintendents’ reports, Beth Ann Gailey of Gateway Regional Medical Center told the Republic-Times that a majority of flu patients coming into the new Gateway Urgent Care at 11 South in Columbia have been younger patients. Gailey said Gateway has also seen an overall increase in flu cases recently —  with 60 total cases at the facility since opening in January.

“Normally, we see it a little earlier, but yeah, this is flu season,” she said.

Gailey said patients coming in with the flu are displaying a lot of symptoms resembling a common cold. Flu patients are typically treated with Tamiflu — an antiviral drug — if it is within 72 hours of the onset of symptoms, she indicated. Supportive care, Gailey said, such as fever control and fluid hydration become the standard treatments after that time frame.

“This is based on individual provider discretion based on medical history,” she added.
Monroe County Health Department administrator John Wagner told the Republic-Times that Illinois is at the peak of flu season and may remain there for another month before it subsides. He recommends receiving a flu shot, adding that the flu mist is no longer being deployed at schools.

To schedule an appointment with the health department for a flu shot, call 939-3871, ext. 10. The department also accepts walk-ins and is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Local pharmacies and doctor’s offices also provide flu shots.

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