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Illness sweeps schools

February 25, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

Illness sweeps schools

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - For the past two weeks at Faith Christian Academy, the classrooms and halls have echoed with the sounds of coughs, sneezes, sniffles and moans from sick students, teachers and staff.

It became so bad that the school closed on Friday and Monday to give those ill a chance to recuperate and for workers to clean the building with antiseptic, said Deborah Helman, the school's director of development.

"Parents, when your child has a fever, please keep the student at home," Helman said Tuesday.

Illnesses can be spread rapidly through the close confines of a school building, said school and health officials throughout the Tri-State area.

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In Washington County, health officials have watched the absentee rates closely as a bug spreads through different schools.

"We don't know what it is, but it goes to the school, hangs around for a couple of days and moves on to another school," said Phyllis Eshleman, a registered nurse and program manager of the school health program with the Washington County Health Department.

The health department has kept a watch on schools in Washington County, where the absenteeism rate has reached 10 percent.

On Feb. 2, the bug struck Williamsport Elementary and Smithsburg Middle schools. On Feb. 3 and Feb. 6, Western Heights Middle School had 10 perent of the students absent.

On Feb. 17, it was Maugansville Elementary and Clear Spring High School. On Feb. 18, Hickory Elementary and Maugansville Elementary schools had 10 perent of their students out. On Feb. 23, it was Sharpsburg Elementary's turn.

She said the exact illness is unknown and may or may not be influenza. She said the students are told to go to their doctors and the health department does not always hear a diagnosis.

At Faith Christian Academy, 45 of the 226 students and six of 17 teachers were out ill, Helman said.

On Tuesday, when school reopened, 27 students were out, as well as one teacher and one staff member, she said.

Frank Aliveto, assistant superintendent for schools in Berkeley County, said there had not been an unusually high absentee rate in the county schools so far this year.

"We cross our fingers, but we've been okay so far," he said.

Chambersburg Senior High School has not had a high absenteeism rate, said a school secretary who declined to give her name.

Franklin County school system's supervising nurse was out of town Tuesday and other school board officials did not return telephone calls.

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