Don’t be fooled into thinking flu season is over. It is still very much here, and people need to be cautious, take care of themselves and stay home if they are sick.

Superintendent Eric Haley, pictured here at a School Board Committee meeting at Waterville Senior High School on July 11, 2018, was ill the week before February vacation and found when he returned to work that his staff had been stricken as well. Morning Sentinel file photo by Michael G. Seamans

That is the message nurses in Waterville and Vassalboro schools are imparting to parents, students and staff as March wanes and April creeps in.

Those nurses on Monday emailed staff, students and parents or guardians and sent letters home with younger students to remind everyone flu season is not over and to ask them to help prevent the spread of flu in schools.

“Flu is still out there,” Melanie Lecours, a registered nurse at Albert S. Hall School in Waterville, said Monday in a phone interview about the letter’s message. “It’s continuing. It’s across the U.S. These are the symptoms; this is how you take care of it, and don’t come to school sick.”

Lecours is team leader for nurses in Waterville, Winslow and Vassalboro schools, who sent out the flyers Monday. Flu symptoms include headache, fever greater than 100 degrees, severe body aches and respiratory issues such as a cough, sore throat and runny nose, according to the letter.

“If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms accompanied with a fever, they must not return to school until their temperature has been normal for a full 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen,” it reads.

Parents or guardians who have questions about symptoms should call their primary care providers, according to the letter, which spells out how people may best protect themselves and their families from spreading the flu. They should cough or sneeze inside the elbow if tissues are not available; wash their hands often with soap and water, or sanitizer if water is not available; avoid taking infants, young children and those with chronic illnesses such as asthma, diabetes and cancer into large crowds during flu season; minimize close contact with sick people; don’t share water bottles, straws or eating utensils; and get a flu shot. People also may go to the website cdc.gov/flu/about/index.html to learn more, the letter reads.

Lecours noted that there is a misconception out there that when people feel sick, they have the flu, when actually, people may have symptoms from the viruses that mimic the flu.

“Unless you get tested for influenza, we don’t know if you have the flu or not,” she said.

When parents or guardians contact the school to report a child is ill, he or she does not have to say what the illness is, so numbers of students who  have the flu is unknown, according to Lecours. This school year, the number of absences have not been high enough in Waterville, Winslow and Vassalboro schools to require them to report to the Centers for Disease Control, Lecours said.

Eric Haley, superintendent for Waterville schools, said Monday that a “huge number” of students were absent from school just prior to the Feb. 18 school vacation week.

Haley said he had the flu and suffered fever, chills, diarrhea, vomiting and coughing.

“I couldn’t get rid of the cough,” he said. “It was awful. It’s a bad strain, I”ll tell you that. It’s the worst one.”

He said he drove home from work on Feb. 15, a Friday night, felt sick, went to bed early and didn’t leave home for three days. He went to work Monday, the first day of school vacation, and only three employees were there. The rest were out sick, and even the ones working were not well and coughing.

“I had to close the office down,” he said. “Everybody in the office got sick, and I mean everybody. I sent everyone home at noon.”

 

Amy Calder — 861-9247
[email protected]
Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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