Counties with Flu Outbreaks Close Schools; Hand Hygiene Encouraged

Outbreaks of flu are causing some Tennessee counties to close schools for the remainder of the week, hoping this will give teachers and students time to recuperate. Monday is Presidents Day and a holiday for schools.

Neighboring Wilson County’s Schools Director Dr. Donna Wright reported that approximately 140 teachers had called in sick, which resulted in more than 25 classrooms without a teacher.

Smith and Humphreys counties have also closed for the remainder of the week.

Ameerah Palacion, with Metro schools communications department, said attendance is running at 92 percent and that school officials are monitoring what is happening with neighboring county schools.

“In the meantime, we encourage students and families to continue good health habits and for parents to keep sick children home,” Palacion added.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) flu season activity most commonly peaks between December and March, but flu viruses can cause illness from early October to late May.

The highest number of influenza cases in Tennessee, which currently is among the states with the highest levels of flu activity, is typically seen in January and February each year, according to the CDC.

Flu viruses are thought to spread mainly from person to person through coughs and sneezes of infected people.

People of all ages get sick with flu; however, school-aged children are a group with a high rate of flu illness.

Flu symptoms can include: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, tiredness, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting.

To stop the spread of germs, students, parents and staff are encouraged to take everyday preventive measures.

First, students and staff should stay home when they are sick. The CDC recommends staying home at least 24 hours after the person no longer has a fever or signs of a fever.

Everyone should be taught and encouraged to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or their bent arm. When using a tissue, the used tissue should be put in a trash can and hands washed. Hands should be washed often with soap and water for 20 seconds, dry hands with a paper towel, and use the paper towel to turn off the faucet.

If soap and water are not available and hands are not visibly dirty, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60-percent alcohol may be used.

It is also important to keep hands away from the nose, mouth and eyes.

The CDC also recommends keeping sick students and staff from others until they can be picked up to go home.

When feasible, identify a “sick room” through which others do not regularly pass. The sick room should be separated from areas used by well students for routine health activities, such as picking up medications.