Upper Michigan Schools Take Aim Against The Flu During Peak Season

February 13, 2020

This year’s flu season is hitting hard, but Upper Michigan schools are taking the appropriate measures to keep students protected against the virus. Teachers and administration are reminding students to wash their hands and to cover their mouths when they sneeze or cough.

“The last couple of weeks we’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of kids with respiratory illness, with fevers,” said Julie Cootware, a nurse at Woodland School. Upper respiratory illness is the number one cause for missed work and school. “We’ve had several kids that have been confirmed to have influenza B,” she said.

The flu season tends to peak in February and March, Cootware says, and that’s when the virus hits schools the hardest. Up to 60 students visit the nurse’s office every day due to illness.

“If your child does have a fever, it’s important to keep them home,” said Cootware, “and they should remain home until they’re fever-free for 24 hours, without Motrin or Tylenol.” A normal fever can range anywhere between 100.4 to 104F.

Schools such as Manistique and Powell Township closed last week because so many students were sick from the flu. Other schools with larger student populations such as Breitung Township Schools haven’t closed down, but have shifted their curriculum because 60% of students are out sick. Woodland School principal Darren Petschar says the school is teaching students how germs spread and how to avoid spreading them in the school’s health and rec classes.

“We’re working things through and, hopefully, things are working out well,” said Petschar.

Influenza A is typically the leading strain of flu virus during the flu season. But influenza B has been circulating more frequently across the U.S. this year. Health officials recommend that Michiganders, especially children, get vaccinated to avoid getting sick. This year’s vaccine covers four different strains of the flu virus.

“Really anyone can have a serious illness,” said Jacalyn Money-Bruno, a coordinator with the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “People can develop things like pneumonia, they can become hospitalized, and it can even cause death. So far in the U.S. this year, we’ve unfortunately seen 68 pediatric deaths with the flu.”

One family in Oregon is currently suing the Oregon Department of Corrections for wrongful death after medical negligence and civil rights violations lead to the death of 54-year-old Michael Barton.

Money-Bruno says that frequent hand washing, covering your mouth when you cough, and avoiding touching your face while you’re in public are the best ways to avoid contracting the flu. Another way to beat the flu, whether you’re trying to avoid the virus or you’re currently sick, is to eat berries. The 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating two cups of fruit per day and eating berries such as blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries are a great way to fight back against the flu and other diseases because they’re packed with vitamins and antioxidants that boost the immune system.

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