Posted: Jan 11, 2013 10:09 PM by Lindsey Gordon - MTN News
As the seasonal influenza reaches epidemic status in some parts of the country, it's making an impact on students in and around Helena.
Since kids in Helena public schools came back from winter break, school nurses have seen a spike in the amount of kids coming to see them complaining of flu-like symptoms, but that isn't uncommon at this time of year.
"School nurses, we generally know our population, so we know some students who might have chronic underlying health conditions, or they might just be experiencing an acute episode of either a bacterial or viral infection," said Kathy Boutilier, R.N., a nurse at Capital High and Hawthorne for Helena Public Schools.
School age kids are in such close quarters, that it's easy for illness to spread.
"It's well known that school aged children are the ones that spread these kinds of things," she adds.
Especially the really young ones.
"Because they're little and they're close together and they put their heads together
What causes a child to be sent home?
"For sure, it's an emphasis if they have a fever or vomiting that they would go home."
Just in the last couple weeks, the district has noted a greater increase in absences.
Typically, there is a 95 percent attendance rate, but now it's at about 93.3 percent. There is no way to be sure these are illnesses, but Kathy would bet they most likely are.
High school students have semester testing coming up next week, so that's a concern for school health officials.
However, on average, those staying home with illnesses are out for only a day or two.
County health officials stress that it's not too late to get the flu shot.
"No vaccine is going to be a hundred percent effective, but it's very good at reducing the disease, especially if there are a lot of people in the population that are vaccinated, " said Karen Dobson, a public health nurse for the Lewis and Clark County Health Department.
In Lewis and Clark County, there have been about 150 cases of influenza this year so far, but only 13 confirmed through the state.
There have been 113 cases confirmed for all of Montana.