By Linda Lane
With over 80 children out with the flu, the pre-kindergarten through fourth grade Schoolcraft Elementary School closed on Tuesday, January 23, for the day. The Eagle Zone before- and after-school program was also closed for all grades. The elementary school had 22 percent of the children out with various forms of the illness – vomiting, fevers, chills or headaches.
“It’s the first time I’ve seen this happen in my tenure here,” Rusty Stitt, superintendent of the Schoolcraft Community Schools reported. “We contacted the Kalamazoo Health Department, and their recommendation was to close school if over 20 percent of the students were sick.”
Families called in to report illness status and district staff contacted approximately 25 percent of the elementary school families before deciding to reopen the school. Many of the illnesses began the previous week, but once the attendance was expected to be in an acceptable range, Schoolcraft reopened the Elementary school and the Eagle Zone program.
The district reminded families on Facebook, “If students require a medication, either over the counter or prescribed, to alleviate stomach symptoms or reduce a fever then that child should NOT be sent to school.”
The Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department (KCHD) Epidemiology Unit reported a significant spike in flu-reported cases by county school districts. Pre-Christmas numbers were around 300-350 cases of reported flu illnesses, but by the week ending January 21, the number shot up to over 1,100 cases reported. The first two weeks in January were way above the four-year average in the total number of flu cases.
Chief complaints of flu symptoms reported include fever, weakness, dizziness, fever, lightheadedness and chills. KCHD warns that influenza can be contagious for up to five days after symptoms are first experienced; it recommends people stay at home for 24 hours after their last fever or flu symptom to reduce the risk of spreading the disease. People are also urged to consult with their primary physician if they experience flu-like symptoms and not go to an emergency room to also reduce the risk of spreading the flu.