Capital Region schools take precautions to stop flu from spreading

RENSSELAER, N.Y. – Flu season is in full swing and it is proving especially bad with 43 out of 50 states reporting high or widespread flu activity, according to the latest flu surveillance report.

Many schools across the Capital Region have expressed high absentee numbers before the holiday break, and Rensselaer schools say that trend has continued since kids returned from break on Monday.

Flu pamphlet from the DCD, page 1.
Flu pamphlet from the CDC , page 1.

“You’re in the classroom all day with them, the air is circulating, and it’s just really easy to get sick,” first grade teacher Barbara Cummings said.

Cummings has been teaching for thirty years and has developed strategies to keep her from getting ill.

“Sometimes [I can tell] through their eyes that they don’t feel 100 percent, yet,” she said. “I try to make sure that I keep my hands clean if I’ve been touching them or touching their papers.”

Cummings says she takes extra steps to keep kids safe, including wiping down all communal areas and supplies and ensuring every child makes sure they wash their hands as much as possible.

“Leave to go to the bathroom – wash their hands,” she said. “They sneeze – wash their hands. Before they eat their snack – wash their hands.”

But despite her best efforts, the current flu season has been a rough one for the district. Nurse Katy Staats said she had to send six kids home on Monday alone.

“We’ve seen a lot of high fevers,” she said. “Higher than 101.”

However, it isn’t just about hygiene and safety at home. The Rensselaer School District says it also helps from parents to ensure sick kids stay at home.

Flu pamphlet from the CDC, page 2.
Flu pamphlet from the CDC, page 2.

“Our district policy also includes that when we do send a student home for vomiting, diarrhea, a temperature over 100 degrees that they are kept home for 24 hours,” Staats said. “That’s to help prevent the spread of infection here.”

As for Cummings, she said working as a teacher is like working in a petri dish, and it is a constant reminder to keep things clean.

“They are contagious, and I’m probably contagious to them if I’m getting sick, so you have to be aware of this all the time,” she said.

The New York State Department of Health has released tips on its website about what all New Yorkers should know about the seasonal flu.

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