Absences up due to flu, other illnesses

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Spikes in absenteeism in some local schools may be attributed toa flu epidemic that seems to be going around in some areas of thestate, school officials said.

While most officials won’t attribute the higher number ofstudent absences solely to the flu, they say the flu is a largepart of what seems to be the trouble.

“We haven’t had a major outbreak, but we’re having cases everyday,” said Enterprise secretary Angie Tate, who checks in with thefamilies of children who are absent from school. “We may haveanywhere from 60-70 out with that, but we also have some strep andstomach virus still going around.”

Loyd Star Elementary Principal Robin Case said students at LoydStar have experienced similar symptoms.

“I’d be reluctant to see flu without a diagnosis, but there is anumber that is much larger than a daily checkout each day,” shesaid. “Part of ours is attributed to the flu-like symptoms and partof it is the stomach virus.”

Brookhaven School District Superintendent Lea Barrett said cityschools have seen quite a jump in absences, going from a usual 3 to4 percent absence rate to around 9 or 10 percent last week.

“We have seen an increase in absences recently, with all theviruses and the flu going around,” she said. “It’s a mixture ofsicknesses; it’s not like it’s all the flu though.”

Barrett said there have been staff members out with the flu aswell.

“Not nearly 10 percent, but still a number of them,” shesaid.

Tate said officials at Enterprise have been taking precautionsto try to preclude the spread of any more germs than are absolutelynecessary. She said Principal Shannon Eubanks had spoken withteachers about the need for meticulous cleanliness.

“I know he’s talked to teachers about that, and I Lysoleverything even here in the office,” she said. “The teachers havebeen asked to make sure they make the kids wash their hands beforelunch and after they go to the bathroom, too.”

Bogue Chitto Principal Bill McGeehee said last week that hisschool had been lucky so far in that there had not been anynoticeable rise in absences. Part of that he attributed to puttingcare toward cleanliness as well.

“We have a nurse who’s here half a day every day, and she wrotea hand washing grant for us this year,” he said. “The elementary isdoing it, and we’re asking our parents and janitors and ourstudents to use good common sense.”

He said his staff is grateful that they’ve been lucky so far,and aware that it could strike at any time.

“We were talking about how blessed we’ve been that our kidshaven’t been sick yet, because when it hits it’s like a wildfire,”he said. “In a small school, when you take five or six out of everyclassroom, that takes its toll.”

West Lincoln school nurse Mary Freshwater said to her knowledgethere hasn’t been a noticeable rise in absences either. She saidchildren coming to see her have simply had routine ailments.

“I haven’t seen it. I haven’t seen any that I know that had theflu,” she said.