More than 50 absent today at Sharpsburg school

January 17, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

SHARPSBURG ? For a second day, dozens of Sharpsburg Elementary School students and staff were absent from school and said to be suffering from flu-like symptoms.

Washington County Health Department spokesman Rod MacRae said he is not aware of similar problems elsewhere in Washington County.

School remained open Wednesday, when about 40 students and four staff members were absent, and again Thursday, when an additional 10 were said to be sick.

MacRae described the illness as "respiratory" and said that symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat and nasal or chest congestion.

"This is the time of year when many people become ill," he said.

The number of sick students and staff at the school prompted a visit Wednesday from the health department. MacRae said officials distributed a list to school personnel as a way to evaluate children.

"If they saw a child who seemed to be ill, they could send them home pending recovery or a doctor's note that (the child) was fine," he said. "The intent was to keep well and ill children sort of separated."


Washington County Public Schools spokesman Will Kauffman said that shortly after the start of the school day Wednesday, officials realized that at least 10 percent of students were absent. The school has about 306 students.

As a result of the spread of illness throughout the school, students and staff were reminded about safeguards against sickness, including washing their hands and not sharing drinks.

MacRae said that letters were sent home to parents with similar tips.

An AlertNow phone message went out Wednesday to parents of Sharpsburg Elementary students telling them why the health department visited the school that day.

Kauffman has said that the health department and the school system will continue to monitor the situation.

"I think next year we're going to do more of a campaign to get children and younger adults immunized for influenza," MacRae said.

How to avoid getting sick

· Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick, too.

· If possible, stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.

· Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.

· Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.

· Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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