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Area schools have yet to see flu season impact

They have only been back a little more than a week but area school nurses report they have yet to see confirmed cases of the flu and a steep decline in absences.

“Usually from Thanksgiving to Christmas we have a lot of kids absent but this year the amount of people with the flu didn’t seem elevated at all,” said Washington Community School nurse Tish Johnson.

Mt. Pleasant Community School’s nurse Sue Weiss reported similar findings.

“Right now it’s normal winter respiratory infections. Just colds, nothing out of the ordinary,” Weiss said. “Nothing that we are seeing an increase in. We aren’t seeing a real big increase in it like what we have in normal years.”

With no severe increase in absences or flu-related symptoms to report, both nurses agree flu shots and encouraging healthy habits are what are making the changes.

“We just make sure at school the students wash their hands and cover their mouth when they cough and we’re hoping that’s what’s helping it,” Weiss explained. “We’re hoping that these steps that we take to protect the students in the school does help to keep those illnesses down.”

Because the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) announcing the first flu-related death of the 2018-19 flu season on Friday, Jan. 4, in western Iowa, keeping the flu at bay is on the mind of many. Both nurses reported seeing symptoms in the fall but not enough to report them to the state.

Weiss explained that if 10 percent of one school’s population is sick, they have to report that to the state, but so far this year have not had to do so.

Johnson said she expects a possible spike in flu-related symptoms later in January as children’s immune systems adjust to being back in school and around more people and germs than they were exposed to at home, but so far there have been no reports.