Schools recording higher absences during flu season

By Randy Arrington

Recently school officials issued a letter to all parents and staff stating: “As you may be aware, influenza season has arrived in the area.”

Many parents across the county are coping with sick children, as absences at local schools begin to climb.

“We are seeing above average absences in all the schools,” Assistant Superintendent of  Human Resource and Business Operations Lance Moran stated in an email. “Ordinarily the county experiences about 5 to 6 percent of the population out on a given day. Currently our number absent is fluctuating anywhere from 8 to 12 percent out.”

But school officials are quick to point out that identifying the cause of each individual absence is difficult.

“We do not have a confirmed number of how many students out are flu-related absences,” Moran added.

School officials note that while some students will return to school with a doctor’s note indicating they had the flu, others may be out for other illnesses or other reasons, as well as those students who get ill and never see a doctor.

The Feb. 4 letter sent home to parents encourages “good hygienic practices” and recommendations from the Lord Fairfax Health District including:

  • Wash hands with soap and water often, especially after being around someone sick;
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing, or use your upper sleeve, but do not use your hands;
  • Dispose of facial tissues that contain nasal secretions after each use, wash hands afterwards;
  • Avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth;
  • Routinely clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces, toys, etc.

Both school and health department officials are encouraging the public to treat the flu seriously and to take precautions that help prevent its spread. Two key pieces of advice include staying home if you are sick, and avoiding those who are sick if you aren’t.

“We are encouraging parents not to send their sick children to school,” Moran stated. “Our custodians are disinfecting our buildings.”

The school systems’ letter encouraged citizens to get a flu shot, which it states is “usually 40 to 60 percent effective in preventing the flu in healthy persons.”

“Every day we check our absentee count in each building to be sure we are not seeing a major spike in absenteeism,” Moran said. “We are also in close contact with the Health Department. They are helping advise the school system as to the best way to combat the flu.”

For more information about the flu, see our regular column “To Your Health” seen under our HEALTH section, or call the Page County Health Department at (540) 743-6528.

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