Adriana Crabtree, left, receives a lesson in proper hand washing from school nurse Meagan Hardwick Thursday, March 7 at Hurricane Deck Elementary School in Sunrise Beach. Hardwick was busy disinfecting door knobs and railings and reminding students of the importance of hand washing to kill germs, after 16 percent of the school population was absent due to an outbreak of Influenza A. (photo by Janet Dabbs)

by Janet Dabbs
Approximately 16 percent of the student population at the Hurricane Deck Elementary School in Sunrise Beach was absent Thursday, March 7 due to Influenza A, according to Hurricane Deck Elementary School nurse Meagan Hardwick. “I had 50 sick students come in to my office today,” Hardwick reported.
Camden County Health Department Director Bee Dampier reports that the health department experienced an uptick last week in kids age 5 to 14 coming down with Influenza A. “It is definitely hitting the school-age kids hard right now,” Dampier said. She added that it is unusual for March. “Generally, we get most flu cases in January and February, it could be a variant in the flu.”
Hardwick said the symptoms of Influenza A are fever, fatigue, body aches, sore throat, headache and sometimes a cough. Cold symptoms, including coughing, sneezing and upper respiratory infections and a separate unidentified sickness also caused a small portion of the student absences. The symptom of the unidentified sickness was vomiting. “That usually signifies some type of a virus,” Hardwick said.
Dampier said a student can be contagious for one to two days before symptoms, and up to one week after the onset of symptoms. Hardwick reminds parents to keep their student out of school when they are sick. “As soon as they start displaying symptoms, they should be kept at home to prevent the spreading of germs to other students,” Hardwick said. “Then wait 24 hours, after they no longer have a fever, before sending them back to school.”
She added the best treatment for Influenza A is to see a doctor and get plenty of rest and liquids and the best prevention is a flu shot.
Hardwick also advises parents to remind their student to frequently wash hands to stop the spread of germs. She said to wash hands often, especially after touching public door handles and other surfaces. Hardwick advises parents to be sure to disinfect all home surfaces to prevent the spreading of germs to other family members.
She had a crew of students working to disinfect door handles and railings throughout the school, as part of their Lighthouse leadership volunteer service Thursday.

Coughing and sneezing

Hardwick requests parents to remind their student that if they have to sneeze, to sneeze into their elbow, rather than into their hands, or out into the air, where they could spew germ laden nasal and throat secretions, causing viruses or bacteria to take flight, hang in the air, or land on other people and surfaces. “Droplets can spread up to three feet, and can live as long as it is wet,” Dampier warned. “What happens then is students touch it and then they touch their eyes nose or mouth and the flu germs are spread.”