Flu hits hard

January 29, 2018

From Staff, Wire Reports

This year’s flu season is pummeling the nation from coast to coast and Terry County apparently is not immune from its impacts.

School officials across the county report hundreds of absences, while the hospital and local clinics are inundated with patients testing positive for one strain of the flu or another.

Dr. Shane Hord of Brownfield Family Physicians said the clinic is seeing an equal number of patients testing positive for the Type A flu virus and the Type B flu virus.

“Unfortunately, some people are contracting one, getting over it, and then contracting the other,” he said. “The vaccine wasn’t very effective this year, so we are definitely seeing a spike over previous flu seasons.”

He urged families to keep kids home from school if they have fever so they don’t continue to spread the virus to other students.

So many students have contracted the virus at Wellman-Union this week, the southwest Terry County school district took the drastic step of cancelling classes Thursday and Friday.

Aaron Waldrip, WUISD Superintendent, told the Brownfield News the decision to suspend classes was not made lightly.

“We look closely at our attendance and we don’t like our percentages of absences to go above 3 or 4 percent, but it began creeping up last week” he said. “Unfortunately this week, we were closer to 20 percent absent. We had 44 out on Monday and we sent 21 more home that day. We met with the custodial staff and they sprayed disinfectant on everything over the weekend. We hoped this would help with the virus. Attendance this week showed that not to be the case.”

Wellman-Union students stayed home Thursday and Friday, but teachers and staff reported to duty Thursday in order to get their classrooms ready for disinfecting.

The school district hired Lubbock-based Germblast to disinfect the entire school and buses.

Waldrip said the unplanned closure will not affect students’ classroom time.

“We had extra time built into our instructional minutes and were able to take these days without messing up our regular calendar,” he said. “We did have a teacher work-day scheduled for February 16 which will now be a regular school day.”

Germblast’s services also are being used at Meadow ISD.

The school district in northeast Terry County reported 33 of its 280 students were absent on Thursday, but they elected not to cancel classes.

MISD Superintendent Darrian Dover said the district has contracted with Germblast to spray Meadow’s buildings every 90 days.

“We think it pays for itself if you can help your attendance by 2 or 3 percent,” he said. “But more than that, I want to be able to look the parents of students in the eye and tell them I am doing all I can do to keep their kids healthy at Meadow ISD.”

Brownfield ISD also saw a spike in flu-related absences this week, but not enough to close schools, according to interim superintendent Kelly Baggett.

“It’s really going around right now,” he said. “We are keeping an eye on it and will continue to monitor the situation.”

At Brownfield High School, absences peaked Wednesday with 147 students out sick.

That number slowed to 137 Thursday and 105 students out Friday.

In total for the week, BHS logged 620 absences, but it is important to remember that number is cumulative for the five days, Monday through Friday.

All other BISD campuses reported their highest absences on Friday.

Brownfield Middle School had 102 students out Friday, while Oak Grove reported 71 students sick.

There were 42 students absent at Colonial Heights Friday and 47 at Bright Beginnings.

All in all, BISD reported almost 13 percent of its student body was absent at some point during the school week.

BISD custodial staff is taking extra precautions while cleaning during flu season, according to district maintenance director Brian Paiva.

“We provide touchless hand sanitizer and soap dispensers in almost every classroom and most other common areas throughout the district in an effort to prevent the spread of germs year round,” he said. “Our custodial staff has been trained to use the proper disinfectant products to clean all areas and to use them properly. We stress to our staff that the proper use of the products is very important to the effectiveness of the product.

“It is very important to allow a dwell time for the products to work including allowing them to stay wet for up to 10 minutes before being wiped clean,” Paiva continued. “We are making sure to pay special attention to common touch areas, such as door knobs and jams, desks, and chair backs that are handled by many students throughout the day.”

Paiva said hard surface areas are more likely to hold the flu virus and the bug can live for up to 24 hours in some cases on these surfaces.

Unfortunately, experts say flu season is only about half over.

Last week, 1 in 15 doctor visits were for symptoms of the flu. That’s the highest level since the swine flu pandemic in 2009. The government doesn’t track every flu case but comes up with estimates; one measure is how many people seek medical care for fever, cough, aches and other flu symptoms.

Flu is widespread in every state except Hawaii, with 39 states — including Texas — reporting high traffic to doctors last week, up from 32.

At this rate, by the end of the season somewhere around 34 million Americans will have gotten sick from the flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

Hospitalization rates for people 50 to 64 — baby boomers, mostly — has been unusually high, CDC officials said in the report, which covers the week ending Jan. 20.

The season usually peaks in February, but this season started early and took off in December.

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs.

It can cause a miserable but relatively mild illness in many people, but more a more severe illness in others.

Young children and the elderly are at greatest risk from flu and its complications.

In a bad season, there are as many as 56,000 deaths connected to the flu.

In the U.S., annual flu shots are recommended for everyone age 6 months or older.

Last season, about 47 percent of Americans got vaccinated, according to CDC figures.

Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by tiny droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby.

Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.

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