Flu season strikes early in Madison schools but prevention is key
MADISON – Influenza or ‘flu’ has returned to North Alabama, and school campuses in Madison are feeling the wrath of the ugly illness.
“We continue to see an increase in absences across our district due to illness,” Registered Nurse Bonnie Davis said. “With the Type A Flu strain, many students have vomiting and diarrhea as their main symptoms; however, this (illness) is being mistaken for a stomach virus.”
Other flu symptoms are headache, fever and cough, Davis said. She works as Lead Nurse for Madison City Schools.
To help stop the spread of flu, Davis urges parents and guardians to keep a child home who is sick. “We’re seeing students sent back to school too soon.”
Students need time to recover from an illness and don’t perform well at school if they don’t feel well. Plus, they may still be contagious. “Most physicians recommend that someone with the flu should stay home for a full five days,” Davis said.
Davis has posted a helpful fact sheet, “The Flu: A Guide to Parents” on Facebook. Flu vaccination is documented for reducing the risk of getting sick by about half. A vaccination also can help a child avoid hospitalization. Flu viruses constantly change, so doctors update vaccines often to protect against viruses that are most likely to cause illness.
Furthermore, caregivers of children at high risk of flu complications also should receive a vaccination. For questions about symptoms, parents can contact the school nurse for their student’s school.
MCS Superintendent Dr. Ed Nichols said a student should be free of fever before returning to school. “If an illness places your student into excessive absences, please contact your school principal. Our team will work with you since we don’t want students trying to come to school sick because of a fear of absences,” Nichols said.
Fortunately, MCS is not facing a huge crisis of absence across the entire district. “We’ve had a few schools dip into the low 80-percent attendance range for a couple of days; however, as a district, we are currently holding around the 90-percent attendance range . . . slightly below our 94- to 96-percent normal range,” Nichols said.
In Montgomery, physicians with Alabama Medical Association and Alabama Department of Public Health are encouraging Alabamians to participate in “Flu Shot Friday” on Nov. 18. “Flu Shot Friday,” a public information campaign, urges Alabamians older than six months to have a flu vaccination.
Flu shots are available at county health departments; visit alabamapublichealth.gov/flu/vaccine.html. For health departments’ contact information, visit alabamapublichealth.gov/blog/assets/countycontacts.pdf.
For school information, visit Facebook/Madison City Schools and scroll to Davis’ post.