TGNWS 1-28 flu season.jpg

Carrollton Elementary School nurse Robin Street takes the temperature of second-grader Brody Robinson.

Jessica Gallagher/Times-Georgian

A Carrollton Elementary School nurse said parents should not force their child to go to school if they are having flu-like symptoms.

“If your child is sick or running a fever they need to stay home,” said Robin Street. “We understand that they need to be at school learning. However, if they are sick they can spread the illness to the other children and even the teachers.”

School nurses are doing what they can to fight the flu in the halls but many students are falling ill and are having to stay home or visit the doctor during the flu outbreak that has swept across the country.

Last week, 1 in 15 doctor visits nationwide were for symptoms of the flu. That’s the highest level since the swine flu pandemic in 2009. Thirty-nine states reported high flu traffic last week, up from 32 the week before.

Some good news, at least so far: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that hospital stays and deaths from the flu among the elderly so far haven’t been as high as in some other recent flu seasons. However, hospitalization rates for people 50 to 64 — Baby Boomers, mostly — has been unusually high, CDC officials said.

“We have had many students out with the flu and other illnesses,” Street said. “It is typical around this time of year. Usually it is much more common around the Thanksgiving season.”

Flu is a contagious respiratory illness, spread by a virus. It can cause a miserable but relatively mild illness in many people, but a more severe illness in others. Young children and the elderly are at greatest risk from flu and its complications. In a bad season, there are as many as 56,000 deaths connected to the flu.

Annual flu shots are recommended for everyone age 6 months or older.

Street said schools are noticing the flu in every grade level.

“We are seeing a lot of cases in each school,” she said. “We have students who are at higher risk of catching the illness due to their current medical condition, so this is something we are really fighting to keep others from catching the flu.”

Street said it is safe for a child to return to school after 24 hours of a broken fever, with no medications taken to help the fever go away, and vomiting.

“A doctor’s note will excuse a child being away from school because of an illness,” she said. “We suggest to parents that if their child does have flu-like symptoms then they should be looked at by a doctor to determine if it really is the flu.”

Street said teachers understand that this is the season for the flu and that teachers will work with parents to make sure that any sick child can make up any missed school work once they are feeling better again.

“I can’t stress handwashing enough for everyone,” she said. “We have hand sanitizer stations placed throughout the schools so that everyone can stay clean. Teachers also have hand sanitizers in the classrooms so the students can stay on top of washing their hands.”

Street said schools are pushing to have the students wash their hands with soap and water, not just hand sanitizer. Teachers are wiping down surfaces and chairs to kill any germs that may linger. She said that limiting contact with those who are sick can help prevent the spread.

“The Georgia Department of Public Health also is helpful with providing information,” said Street. “They have a website, https://dph.georgia.gov/georgia-flu-information, that talks about the flu in Georgia right now and how individuals can fight the spread.”

Erin McSwain-Davis of the Times-Georgian and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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