Winter Illness: January 2020 School Health Newsletter

Winter Illness: January 2020 School Health Newsletter

Even though the temperatures have been spring-like lately, it is still winter when clusters of respiratory and gastrointestinal (GI) illness occur in our schools and communities.
Newton school nurses monitor illness among students in the schools and have recently received reports of confirmed influenza.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health posts a weekly flu update most Fridays with the latest information about influenza and influenza-like illness (ILI) in the state.

Here are a few highlights from the latest report (1/17/20):

  •  The percentage of influenza-like illness visits to health care facilities for Massachusetts has increased and is higher than the previous two years in the same week.
  • Overall influenza-like illness activity for Massachusetts is high this week. The region that includes Newton (Inner Metro Boston) is reporting moderate ILI activity.
  • Nationally, influenza-like illness activity remains elevated and influenza B is most common.

Flu vaccination for all people age 6 months and older continues to be recommended. It’s not too late to get a flu shot. For people who get vaccinated but still get sick, the severity of illness is reduced according to the CDC. Anyone can make an appointment with the public health nurse at City Hall for a no cost flu vaccine by calling 617-796-1420.

Help the school nurses monitor illness in the schools. Report diagnosed strep infection, influenza or other respiratory infections to the school nurse. It may seem elementary, but in conjunction with a flu vaccine, thorough handwashing is the best way to prevent all kinds of illness including the flu.

If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs and might not remove harmful chemicals.

It is important for families to keep sick children at home, in accordance with school policy outlined below. These guidelines are also good common sense for adults in the workplace. Keep your children home from school when they are ill, following the school exclusion policy. A student will be excluded from school if they have:

  • A fever of 100deg F or greater in the past 24 hours (must be fever free for 24 hours without fever reducing medication to return)
  •  A communicable disease diagnosis
  • A cold in the active stages – coughing, sneezing, nasal drainage
  • A sore throat and/or swollen neck glands
  • Vomiting or diarrhea in the past 24 hours
  • Acute pain that requires relief by narcotic medication