The unseasonably warmer weather has been a nice reprieve from the usual February weather of negative temperatures, but with the warmth has also come an onslaught of sickness. Influenza A, B and Strep, along with other cold viruses have struck many, including a huge number of students. A letter from Marias Healthcare was sent home with Shelby Elementary students on Monday, Feb. 10, and was sent out to all junior high and high school parents, informing parents of the increased number of children diagnosed with Influenza A and B.

“Unfortunately, even children who received the vaccine are getting infected,” the letter states. It goes on to say “It is recommended that any precautions be taken that may be needed to prevent further spread, such as, but not limited to, a thorough cleaning and sanitizing of facilities.”

As of Friday, Feb. 14, there have been 43 positive cases of influenza reported locally, according to Robyn Kimmet, Toole County Health Department Supervisor and PHEP Coordinator. The total number of reported influenza cases last year, during the 2018-2019 season, was 38.

“I think we are seeing more cases earlier this year than we did last year, but with the season only being part way through there isn’t a way to say that we have reached our peak,” said Kimmet. “I can only hope that we have, as Toole County has seemed to have gotten hit pretty good the last few weeks!”

The letter gave a list of symptoms to watch for and requested that any students showing any combination of the symptoms be kept home until they are symptom free and seen by their primary care provider. The symptoms include: headache, fevers of 100.5 or higher and/or chills, cough, nasal and/or chest congestion and body aches.

Robyn Kimmet, Toole County Health Department Supervisor and PHEP Coordinator shared that the flu vaccine received by most was a quadrivalent vaccine that covered A/Brisbane/02/2018 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus, A/Kansas/14/2017 (H3N2)-like virus, B/Colorado/06/2017-like (Victoria lineage) virus and B/Phuket/3073/2013-like (Yamagata lineage) virus. The total number of residents and children in Toole County testing positive for the flu is still being calculated but it is definitely higher than in prior years. Kimmet offered a few tips for avoiding the flu.

“One, get a flu shot,” said Kimmet. “Two, avoid sick people and three, wash your hands! If you are sick stay home from work or school and take prescription antiviral medications if prescribed.”

The number of sick students continued to grow last week as Monday, Feb. 10, saw a total of 64 students absent and by Tuesday the 11th 84 were not in attendance. 

“I’m not sure if all of the students out are illness related,” said Superintendent Elliott Crump. “But we encourage parents that have a child that is exhibiting flu-like symptoms to keep their child at home.”

If your child, or you, are experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms you are encouraged to stay home until symptom-free. If symptoms continue to get worse contact your primary care provider immediately as antibiotics may be needed. 

For any questions or more information on the flu visit the CDC website at cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2019-2020.htm, contact the Toole County Health Department at (406) 424-5169 or Marias Healthcare at (406) 434-3100.

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