As schools in nearly a dozen states have closed to help curb the spread of the flu, Cache Valley schoolchildren appear to be only be experiencing sporadic cases.
With the flu season hitting its peak, both the Cache and Logan school districts as well as valley charter schools have sent out information to patrons about ways to help prevent the spreading of germs.
Kelly Hansen, Logan City School District nurse, said throughout the eight schools in the district, widespread cases haven’t been reported.
“In the time I have been here, I have never had to shut down a school,” Hansen said. “This year so far has been about average, but I am aware that other states have been hit hard and have shut down schools.”
Hansen, who has been with the district since October 1993, said the closest she has come to needing to close a school was a time where nearly 30 percent of the school population at Mount Logan was out with the bug.
Although she can’t remember the exact year, she said it was determined through talks with the superintendent and the Bear River Health Department to give the students another day to see if they rebounded before closing.
Hansen said with the extra day of monitoring, the numbers came back up, which helped avoid the closure.
“The H1N1 year about 8 to 10 years ago was a banner year for flu in the U.S. as a whole. We worked actively doing a lot of flu shots that year and offering as many services to keep everyone well,” Hansen said.
Lisa Perkins, an immunization program manager at BRHD, said many people think there is a certain window for getting flu shots, but it isn’t too late to get the immunization. The BRHD offers a clinic Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Appointments are not necessary, and those seeking shots at the clinic, located at 655 E. 1300 North, should plan to be there for up to 30 minutes. Those without insurance are billed $25 for the shot. For more information about what insurance is accepted, visit www.brhd.org.
“We are seeing an increase in influenza this year in the over-65 in our community,” Perkins said. “It is peak season and it is changing frequently. We have seen an increase in hospitalizations. It is hard to say if we will see the impacts other areas are seeing.”
Donna Kirkland, an infection preventionist with Logan Regional, said currently the state average for influenza cases is listed as low to moderate, but the Bear River district is at high levels for influenza-like illnesses.
Bear River and Davis are the only two health districts in the state with a “High” rating, while the rest of the state is listed at either minimal or low to moderate, Kirkland said.
A weekly report generated by the Utah Department of Health lists five hospitalizations for influenza from the last week of January in the Bear River district with 73 total statewide admitted for hospital stays.
Of the reported cases, 60 percent of the hospitalizations statewide are from those 65 years or older with 707 individuals being admitted. Among the 5- to 24-year-old group, there have been 78 hospitalizations statewide.
While getting a flu shot doesn’t completely rule out a person catching one of the strains of the virus, Perkins said it can greatly decrease the risk and even lessen the effects if one were to get sick.
Perkins said the Centers for Disease Control recommends anyone six months of age or older to get the vaccination. It can take about two weeks for the shot to become effective.
“If you have had influenza already, they are still recommending getting one. There are strains in the community that you might not get but could get another form,” Perkins said.
Since September, the Budge Pharmacy at Logan Regional Hospital has given 433 flu shots, which according to the hospital is about half of what they did last year. A hospital spokesperson said many individuals are opting to get the shots from their provider, which has led to the lower numbers.
Within area schools, Hansen said some of the general guidelines parents and guardians should follow are more common-sense procedures for deciding whether to send kids to school if they suspect they are ill.
“Keep your kids home when they are sick. A lot of kids leave the house feeling well, and then after a couple of hours they may feel sick,” Hansen said. “We understand,”
Hansen said children who have had fevers — 100 degrees or more — should not return to school until it has gone away and parents are no longer administering fever-reducing medicines.
“A lot of parents think if they treat the fever the child can come to school. That is not what we are after. Students need to be without the fever for 24 hours without treatment,” Hansen said.
When parents call to excuse children from school, Hansen said secretaries will often ask about the illness in an effort to track the communicable diseases to help keep the district informed on the possibility of outbreaks.
The data collected is also reported to the Utah Department of Health, which lists the information in the weekly reports. Within the Bear River area, the weekly absenteeism is listed at 5.7 absences per 100 students, which is just above the state average of 5.6.
“Not every parent tells us what is going on,” Hansen said. “We do try to find out what is taking place. Our intent is not to be intrusive but to make sure we are doing everything to support the family with information.”