Flu affecting attendance at Lincolnwood’s Todd Hall
The 10 percent rise in absentees at Lincoln Hall Elementary School prompted school nurse Meg Egan to call Cook County Department of Public Health, which confirmed a virus was, in fact, making its rounds. | File photo
Updated: December 27, 2012 3:04PM
LINCOLNWOOD — Dozens of young sniffling and sneezing children missed school the past two weeks, indicating the flu is back sooner than usual and with a vengeance.
Lincolnwood’s Todd Hall recently recorded about 50 student absences due to sickness, reported school nurse Meg Egan.
“We do have kids coming in with a little cold sneezing and coughing that can trigger those germs to spread,” she said.
The 10 percent rise in absentees at the elementary school prompted Egan to call Cook County Department of Public Health, which confirmed a virus was, in fact, making its rounds. Local hospitals also reported an uptick in the number of patients sick with the flu over this time last winter.
Loyola University Medical Center has thus far recorded 27 influenza cases in Maywood. In 2011, the center’s first flu case wasn’t reported until December.
Since Nov. 5, the University of Chicago has logged 24 reported cases, when last year the flu wasn’t reported until Jan. 12
At Rush University Medical Center, there have been 36 reported cases since Nov. 15. At this time last year, there were no reports of influenza.
The flu season usually peaks in January and February, though seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue into May, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention
“We are definitely seeing more fever and influenza-like symptoms,” said Dr. Allison Bartlett of the pediatric infectious disease department of the University of Chicago Medical Center.
She added, “It is surprising.
Todd Hall serves approximately over 400 pre-kindergarten through second-grade students who, as a group, may be more vulnerable to falling ill because of exposure to new germs outside the home, Egan said.
“There are a lot of different things causing this age group to get sick,” she said. “Their immune system is not as strong and their Eustachian tubes don’t drain as well.
“It may be that they get hit a little harder.”
She said most students had exhibited flu and cold-like symptoms, though some had developed a strep throat infection.
To help prevent the flu and other viruses from traveling from one child to the next, Egan visited classrooms last week to discuss healthy hygiene techniques, such as thorough hand washing and covering the mouth when sneezing and coughing.
Since viruses often stick around for a number of days, Egan has been monitoring why and for how long students are sick and away from school to better contain communicable diseases.
A cold, which can last between a week and 10 days, is most contagious at its onset, she said.
Todd Hall sent a letter to parents from the county health department with reminder to keep sick kids home for an additional 24 hours after they are symptom-free.
Children suffering from a fever, diarrhea, or vomiting should not return to school unless they are both symptom-free and have stopped taking fever-reducing medication and antibiotics for at least one full day, Egan said.
She added that it’s also not too late for children and adults to get a flu shot. Except for those severely allergic to eggs or the influenza vaccine, the CDC recommends people older than six months be vaccinated annually.
The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.