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Hudson Schools avoiding brunt of flu season so far

by Tim Troglen | reporter Published: January 16, 2013 12:00 AM

Hudson -- So far the onslaught of this year's flu season, which has made national news headlines, has, for the most part, spared the students and staffers of district schools.

"The buildings are not reporting any spikes in illnesses at this time," said Hudson Schools Communication Manager Sheryl Sheatzley Jan. 11.

The same goes for staffers.

"Our staff absences are typical," Sheatzley said. "There has been no spike to date of staff illnesses."

Typically, when flu reports reach significant levels, Summit County will ask that districts track the cases of students who visit the school clinics with flu symptoms, Sheatzley said.

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"This has not been the case so far this year," she said. "The last time was a number of years ago."

The schools work all year, not just during flu season, to help prevent the spread of illness, according to Sheatzley.

"The buildings work year-round to educate students and staff about good habits that help prevent the spread of any illnesses," she said. "The primary emphasis is placed on washing hands often and thoroughly."

Students are also encouraged to use their elbow to capture a sneeze or cough if they cannot get to tissues quick enough, Sheatzley added. In addition, school staff members can get flu shots on campus, with employees paying for their own shots.

Across Summit County, officials are reporting an increase in reported flu cases, according to Margo Erme, medical director of the Summit County Health Department.

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"We have high influenza activity in the county," Erme said Jan. 14. "We started seeing influenza activity at the end of November and it's continuing to go up. We do not believe it's peaked yet."

Erme said the cases of influenza infections reported from hospital and emergency room admissions all show increases.

Schools, which were out of session over the holidays, have only been back in session for a couple of weeks.

"It doesn't surprise me they're not seeing activity," Erme said. "That could change one or two weeks from now."

The current vaccine is designed to protect against three strains of flu, she said. Erme noted another strain may make its appearance before the season ends some time in May.

"It's quite possible we may see another peak in February or March," she said.

Other parts of Ohio gave not been able to avoid the flu like Hudson school buildings.

The Ohio Department of Health reported Jan. 11 that one Ohio child died from "flu-related illness," and a handful of adult deaths have been linked to the flu, the AP reported. The Ohio Department of Health did not say where the child was from.

The department is not calling the flu outbreak "an epidemic," according to Tessie Pollock, a department spokesperson.

"It's an early start to the flu season," she said.

Flu viruses are "so unpredictable," you do not know what is going to happen, according to Pollock.

"We may have reached our peak," she said. "Maybe next week we'll reach our peak or maybe we'll continue to climb."

The Department of Health usually does not see the flu season "peak" until February, Pollock said.

During last year's flu season there were no reported deaths among children, Pollock said. The year before there was one.

Ohio is among 47 states with widespread flu outbreaks, and health officials blame the flu for at least 20 child deaths nationally, the AP reported.

Flu-associated hospitalizations are running at much higher rates than the last two seasons. The state reports there have been 1,922 since October in Ohio, compared with 86 a year ago and 175 the previous season.

Some hospitals have begun limiting visitors and handing out surgical masks to try to slow the spread, and health officials are urging people to stay home if they are sick and to keep ill children out of day cares and schools.

On Jan. 11, Akron Children's Hospital released a press release outlining a variety of safety measures for visitors, including limiting visitors under 14 to only siblings.

Pollock noted that the state is coming off an unusually mild season a year ago, and two relatively light seasons after the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic.

"You can't make a statement about the severity of a flu season until it's over," she said.

The health department advises people to get flu shots if they haven't already and says there are sufficient supplies of the vaccine available around the state. While flu shots aren't a guarantee against catching the flu, Pollock said the vaccine seems to be a good match for current strains.

"Building health habits into your routine will also go a long way in preventing the flu," Pollock said.

Pollock suggests regular hand washing with either soap and water, or using hand sanitizers.

"And stay home if you are sick," Pollock added. "It's something that's more easily said than done, but it really does help curb the spread of illness."

For more information on the flu and the availability of vaccine, visit the Summit County Health Department website at www.scphoh.org.

Editor's Note: The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Email: ttroglen@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9435

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