Flu hit local schools before winter break

Flu hit local schools before winter break

Even though there's lots of talk about the flu, local schools say more students were absent because of flu-like symptoms before the winter break.

The Champaign schools' lead nurse, Margee Poole, said the school district had more absences caused by flu-like symptoms just before the district's winter break than it has since classes started again this week.

Champaign schools spokeswoman Stephanie Stuart said the district is still fighting the flu by sending letters to parents asking them to teach kids to wash their hands, cover their coughs and sneezes, and not to share items like drinks, food and unwashed utensils.

The letter also went over symptoms: "fever, cough, sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache and feeling very tired. Some people may also vomit or have diarrhea."

The letter asked parents not to send sick kids to school.

The schools also sent home informational sheets with students who are heading home sick, Stuart said.

That handout urges parents to keep a child home 24 hours after he or she is fever-free. That's true even if a child is on antiviral medicine, it said.

In Urbana, spokeswoman JoAnne Geigner said attendance isn't lower than normal.

"As of now, we are not seeing anything but the expected attendance patterns," Geigner said.

Urbana, too, is urging students and staff members to prevent the spread of the flu, and is staying in touch with the public health district in case the schools see any changes.

Vermilion County schools haven't seen a lot of flu-related absences since they returned from Christmas break either, officials reported.

"Before Christmas, it was pretty bad. We had about 30 to 40 kids out a week," said Jill Bence, secretary at Maple Elementary School in Hoopeston, which has about 370-400 K-2 students.

The flu also hit Honeywell Elementary School in Hoopeston pretty hard before break, Principal Linda Sheppard said. The school has fewer than 200 third- and fourth-graders and a staff of about 20 staffers.

"We had anywhere from 15 to 18 students out a week. It also hit staff pretty hard," she said, almost half had it "in some form or another. Not everyone missed school because of it."

But since then, school officials in Hoopeston, Catlin, Georgetown, Danville and Westville said flu-related absences have gone down.

"In fact, it's been a little light," said Vickie Gabehart, a secretary in the attendance office at Judith Giacoma Elementary School in Westville.

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