Lake City and environs are in the midst of a widespread influenza epidemic this week with upwards of a third of the student enrollment at Lake City Community School out at mid-week and daily review as to whether the school should briefly suspend classes.
Lake City Area Medical Center also reports increased cases of Type A flu, characteristics of which are body ache, fatigue, fever and cough; several instances are also reported of stomach upset with accompanying nausea.
The average duration of the flu is seven to 10 days, with some reports of symptoms lasting as long as two weeks.
Family Nurse Practitioner Sherry Huisman says that both she and Physician Assistant Bob Downs are prescribing Tamiflu to confirmed flu patients with symptoms under 48 hours. Patients with the flu are advised not to go out in public and take lots of rest and liquids.
Fever is an indication that an individual with flu symptoms is still contageous. The germs can continue to be spread for an average of five to seven days and individuals are considered no longer contageous if they are fever-free for 24 hours without taking medication.
Huisman says she had four confirmed flu cases, and an addition three suspected, just on Tuesday this week, PA Downs seeing comparable numbers.
“And those are just the people who we are seeing,” Huisman adds.
Huisman says Center for Disease Control continues to recommend the benefits of flu shots which for this year’s batch have an approximate 20 to 30 percent effective rate. Lake City Area Medical Center, she says, “has a decent supply of the flu shots and we’re available for walk-ins who wish to come in without an appointment.”
Students out with the flu at Lake City Community School reached a peak this week, School Superintendent Leslie Nichols stating that this is the most severe sickness which she has encountered at the school in her five-year tenure as superintendent.
Nichols states that the school is acting on the recommendations of its school nurse, Nelle Petersen, the local medical clinic and Colorado Dept. Public Health & Environment. School staff, she says, is evaluating on a daily basis whether the school should temporarily be closed and has put in place a more stringent disinfecting program and handwashing regiment for students and staff.
Starting on Monday this week, the school upped its cleaning regiment from sanitizing-strength solution to a disinfectant-strength mixture in cleaning the entire school interior, special attention going to doorknobs, glass on doors, and all surfaces.
“In the meantime,” Nichols adds, “we continue to provide educational programs for the kids who are able to be here.” A primary consideration in the decision to continue classes, she adds, is the school’s ability to staff programs.
Absenteeism from the school as a result of the flu has steadily increased in recent days. Last Friday, February 2, a total of three middle school/high school students, and no elementary stduents, were reported sick.
Those numbers dramatically increased this week, however, with a total of 27 students — 10 from the elementary ranks and 17 middle school/high school — who were absent with presumed flu on Tuesday, February 6.
Lastest numbers as of Wednesday, February 7, were three teachers out with the flu, together with 12 preschool/elementary and 22 middle school and high school students who were out of class and ill at home.
School Nurse Nelle Petersen from Hinsdale County Public Health has sent parents the following guidelines for flu prevention:
* To keep the flu from spreading to more people, we ask you to keep sick children at home. Any children who are sick in school will be sent home.
Symptoms include: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea (more common in adults). Not everyone who has the flu will have a fever.
The flu can be contagious from 24 hours before symptoms start and up to 5-7 days after.
Keep your child home from school for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone. (The fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) A fever is defined as 100°F (37.8°C) or higher.
* If you suspect that you or someone in your family has the flu, see your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
They may be able to prescribe an antiviral medication, like Tamiflu, which can help you feel better and get better sooner. These medications work best when they are used early to treat the flu.
If you’re sick, make sure to get plenty of rest and drink lots of water.
Try to keep sick family members in a different room from healthy ones, if possible.
Children younger than five years of age – especially those younger than two years old – and children with certain chronic conditions, including asthma, diabetes and disorders of the brain or nervous system, are at high risk of serious flu-related complications. If your child is at high risk for flu complications, call your doctor or take them to the doctor right away if they develop flu symptoms.
* It’s not too late to get a flu shot!
The flu shot is recommended for everyone 6 months and older.
Getting a flu shot is the best way to prevent the flu and it can also help to decrease your symptoms if you do get the flu.
Please call Public Health at 970-944-0321 or the Lake City Area Medical Center at 970-944-2331 to schedule an appointment.
* There are important everyday steps you can take to help fight the flu.
Wash hands often with soap and water. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and then throw the tissue away. Wash your hands after.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
Clean and disinfect commonly touched hard surfaces, like kitchen counters, toys, and bathroom surfaces. Make sure to follow the directions on the cleaning product.
Please feel free to contact me for more information or if you have any questions or concerns.
Nelle Petersen, RN
Lake City Community School