Flu season at its peak
Oakhill Christian School sent students home early Monday and canceled classes Tuesday because of influenza, administrative assistant Vickie Berg said.
Of the school’s 89 kindergarten through 12th-grade students, 15 were home sick Monday, she said. Three teachers also were ill, though one did teach Monday, she said.
It is the first time in the school’s history that classes were canceled because of the flu.
The school doesn’t have a written policy about illness cancellations, but administrators made the decision as precaution and to help get students healthy, Berg said.
“With so many kids down and out … (we said) let these kids stay home and be healthy,” she said.
Flu-like activity is at a moderate level in southern Wisconsin but at high levels in the rest of the state, according to the latest state reports.
Rock County is at or near the peak of flu season, said Dr. Joseph Schurhammer of the county health department.
Also widespread in the state is the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is the most common cause of bronchitis, croup, ear infections and pneumonia, he said. Symptoms in young children include lethargy, irritability and poor feeding while older children and adults develop upper respiratory tract illness and occasional bronchitis, according to a fact sheet from the state Division of Public Health.
Development of an RSV vaccine is a high priority, but none is yet available, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Although national health officials anticipated that a record 132 million doses of flu vaccine would be manufactured, this season’s vaccine protects against only three strains, Schurhammer said.
“There’s a strain out there that the vaccine doesn’t protect against, and one of (the strains) in the vaccine isn’t circulating much,” he said.
Even so, the vaccine can lessen the symptoms and prevent flu-related complications for the strain not in the vaccine, he said.
Janesville school officials were seeing isolated flu-related absences prior to last week. That’s when the situation became district-wide, said Mat Haeger, manager of health services for the district.
That’s sending more people to the doctors’ office, where traffic picked up last week as well, said Dr. James Horton of Mercy Clinic South in Janesville.
Typically, the flu strikes hard, starting with cold-like symptoms, he said.
“Then after about a day or two of cold, you get really high fevers, a horrible cough, and you just hurt all over,” he said.
He recommends rest and acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, but not aspirin.
People usually feel better in five to seven days, though a cough can persist for three to four weeks, he said.
“But once you’re improving, you want to keep improving—a sudden resurgence of symptoms is a bad sign,” Horton said.
“That could mean a second infection with a bacteria, like pneumonia,” he said. “You want to see a doctor right away.”
Tips for cold/flu season
-- Wash your hands.
“Washing hands is the best way to prevent the spread of influenza,” said Dr. James Horton of Mercy Clinic South in Janesville.
-- Get vaccinated. Flu shots still are available, though they take about two weeks to be effective.
-- If you think you’re getting the flu, two types of medicine could help decrease your symptoms and length of illness if taken within the first 48 hours, Horton said. The generic pill-form of the medicine is Oseltamivir (a brand name is Tamiflu), and the generic form of a nasal spray is Zanamivir (a brand name is Relenza).
“But you have to for sure take (them) within 48 hours,” he said.
-- If you’re sick, stay home. Don’t pass your germs to classmates or coworkers.