School seeing growing number of students
who are home sick
By Carolyn Lee
The Imperial Republican
As cases of seasonal and H1N1 influenza are reported in Nebraska and Chase County, the Chase County Community Hospital (CCCH) and Clinics are taking precautionary measures.
As of now, persons 14 years of age and younger will not be allowed to visit in patient care areas in the hospital, such as patient rooms, therapy areas and outpatient services areas.
Research indicates that young people in this age group are the more at risk population as carriers and transmitters of the seasonal flu and H1N1 virus.
In addition, Lori Mendenhall, chair of the Community Preparedness Coordination Committee for Chase County, said patient scheduling at the Imperial and Wauneta clinics has been changed.
Both clinics are now seeing patients needing routine wellness exams and non-respiratory ailments in the mornings. Patients with potentially infectious respiratory illnesses will be seen in the afternoons.
Saturday visits will continue to be scheduled for acute needs only.
All patients are being encouraged to call prior to coming in, Mendenhall said.
The nursing staff will be asking a series of questions to patients in order to assess an appropriate time for them to see providers.
CCCH and its clinics have masks and hand sanitizers at all entrances for those who have influenza-like symptoms to use.
When asked if CCCH has any confirmed cases of H1N1 inflluenza, formerly known as swine flu, Mendenhall said, “The state is not elaborating on that information yet, although I’ve asked.”
She said that unless patients are hospitalized, CCCH doesn’t send lab work in to the state for confirmation of H1N1. Seasonal and H1N1 patients both test positive for Influenza A, so “providers are telling them they generically have influenza,” Mendenhall stated.
CCCH ran out of the seasonal influenza vaccine during a mass vaccination event Oct. 3. Mendenhall said it could be two weeks before more seasonal vaccine is available in Chase County.
She said CCCH has received some H1N1 vaccine, but it’s not for public use yet. Limited doses, “not enough to go through the health care population,” have been received and are being offered as optional for health care workers, Mendenhall said.
She said she hasn’t been told when the H1N1 vaccine will be available for public use in Chase County. Two doses of the vaccine are needed, three to four weeks apart, she noted.
Persons at risk should get both the seasonal and H1N1 vaccines, health professionals are advising.
Those include pregnant women, people who live with or care for children younger than six months of age, healthcare and emergency medical services personnel, persons between the ages of six months and 24 years old, and persons ages 25 through 64 years of age who are at higher risk for 2009 H1N1 because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.
Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department of McCook said last Monday that the first shipment of H1N1 vaccine has arrived in southwest Nebraska. It will be distributed to a select few provider offices within the eight county health district served by SNPHD.
“CDC (Center for Disease Control) assures us that there will be enough vaccine and that we need to work through the priority groups to get the vaccine to the population most affected by the H1N1 virus,” Heidi Wheeler, Emergency Response Coordinator, said.
“We are asking the public to be patient and understanding during the next month as we get the vaccine distributed to the health providers within the health district.”
Spread of novel H1N1 virus is thought to be happening in the same way that seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing by people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.
Illness at school
Chase County Schools Nurse Angie Paisley said although a number of students are ill at the moment, it’s due to a variety of issues.
Some students have flu-like symptoms, some have tested positive for Influenza A, some have tested negative for Influenza A, some have tested positive for strep throat and some are still experiencing allergies, she said Tuesday.
According to a report from the principals at Tuesday night’s school board meeting, 48 students in grades 7-12 were out ill Tuesday, up from 33 on Monday.
In grades K-6, 15 students were absent due to illness Tuesday, up from 10 on Monday.
There have been guidelines for several years relating to school attendance when ill, Paisley said. If a student is running a fever of over 100 degrees, he or she needs to be fever-free for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine such as Tylenol before returning to school.
A student must be fever free before attending school at any time.
Parents, Paisley stressed, should be taking children’s temperatures before school, especially if a sibling has tested positive for influenza. All homes should have accurate thermometers, she stated.
“We have to take care of our sick kids and our well kids,” she said. If a student attends school with a fever, he or she has already exposed other students.
“Keep the school informed if a child tests positive,” Paisley said, so staff can keep an eye on that student’s teammates or classmates for symptoms of influenza.
Paisley also said students should stay home if they have a persistent cough, until that cough is gone. Cough into a sleeve instead of a hand, and use hand sanitizers frequently.
Asked if rumors of a school closing due to illness were correct, Supt. Matt Fisher said no closing is anticipated.
“We’ll leave the school open,” he stated. “I’ve been told the incubation period (for flu) is so long that we’d be closed for months” if the school closed.
Fisher said rumors that the football team didn’t practice on Monday due to illness are incorrect. The team watched films as it usually does on Mondays.
In addition, the football field was covered with snow and it was cold, he said.
Steps to protect yourself
Stay home if you are sick for seven days after your symptoms begin or until you have been symptom-free for 24 hours, whichever is longer.
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Try to avoid close contact with sick people.