HANCOCK — Robert Van Howe, M.D., interim medical director for the Western U.P. Health Department, sent a letter to local school districts to be emailed to parents of students, including Hancock Public Schools. The letter contains important information regarding flu symptoms and recommendations for prevention, as well as cautions to parents.
Van Howe stated in the letter that with influenza season in full swing, the Health Department is receiving reports of increasing numbers of cases throughout the state and in the Upper Peninsula.
Influenza, the letter cautions, is a highly contagious viral infection that is spread by direct person-to-person contact, and through the air. Symptoms of influenza may include: high fever (may spike to over 104 degrees); dry cough; severe muscle aches or unwillingness to move; headache; glassy eyes; some may have vomiting, stomachache, or diarrhea, but most do not.
If a child has not developed influenza, and has not yet been vaccinated against it, it is not too late have him or her vaccinated, Howe stated. The good news, he stated, is that this year’s influenza vaccination covers the strains of flu that are currently circulating through the community.
Any child six months and older should be vaccinated, unless there is a medical contraindication.
Howe also cautioned that unvaccinated individuals are at a higher risk of developing disease if they are exposed, (and) they can spread the disease to others in their school and community.
Barkell Elementary School administrative assistant Tami Bessner said absenteeism is no higher this season than past seasons.
“I do the attendance,” she said, “and nothing crazy. You can’t say we’re all healthy, because that’s not true, either, but we don’t have that percentage of 25 percent gone in the district to close, or anything.”
Bessner said that if school absenteeism reaches or exceeds 25 percent across the entire school district, the schools then must close to prevent illness from spreading further.
“There’s always something from the first day of school to the last,” she said. “It used to be that January and February were flu season, but now, no. They start throwing up the first day, and continue to the last day of school.”