So far this academic year, 338 more children were sent home sick in the first semester than during the first semester of the 2011-2012 school year, said Marilyn Wyant, director of health services for the Maricopa Unified School District.
The school district, like the state and county, is “seeing an increase in kids being sick with flu-like symptoms,” Wyant said.
Wyant said “we started to see those real high fevers” in school nurses’ offices in December.
Winter break, which keeps children separate from one another and less likely to spread the influenza virus, helped a little.
“Our offices are busy, but we’re not seeing as many high fevers,” Wyant said. Still, “I’m predicting it’s going to be rough one or two weeks,” she said.
Jeannie Warren, the school nurse at Santa Rosa Elementary School said she only sent three students home during the first week after the break.
“Here at my school, it’s very minimal,” Warren said. “I was expecting more, but there wasn’t.”
“It seems to vary year to year,” she said. “Sometimes it’s a lot (of students), sometimes it’s minimal.”
The school district takes a “proactive” approach when illness starts to spread throughout classrooms and schools, Wyant said.
“As soon as we see an increase in any specific illness … we start the cleaning process,” Wyant said. The process includes teachers wiping down desks after class and custodians using a bleach solution to clean doorknobs, light switches and “anything that’s touched by little hands.”
An aggressive hand-washing campaign teaching children how to effectively wash their hands and to wash them often is also ongoing.
“We have found that has been a big help,” Wyant said.
“I definitely work with kids in hand-washing all the time,” Warren said, adding that “it’s the main thing that will keep everyone healthy.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the proper way to wash hand is to:
- Wet hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
- Rub hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of hands, between fingers, and under your nails.
- Continue rubbing hands for at least 20 seconds. Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse hands well under running water.
- Dry hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
One of the best things parents can do to help avoid the spread of the flu is to keep their child home for at least 24 hours after he or she exhibits symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea or a high fever.
“We’re really pushing if your child is sick, do not bring your child to school,” Wyant said.