Flu takes toll on schools

Published 12:01 am Friday, February 8, 2008

NATCHEZ — The fever, the chills, the misery — its all part of the flu.

And lately it seems the influenza virus has been particularly cruel to the Miss-Lou.

Schools across the area have noticed higher than normal absences and doctors have been seeing patients with all the typical symptoms of the flu.

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Cathedral School’s assistant administrator Shannon Bland said she does not know how many absent students actually have the flu.

However, Bland did say that the number of absent teachers has also risen and most of those are out with the flu.

Across the river, approximately 10 percent of Vidalia High School’s students has been afflicted by the virus on a day-to-day basis.

“It has been fluctuating between 35 and 40 students absent due to the flu each day,” VHS Administrative Assistant Linda McMurtry said. “Last Thursday it was 45.”

David Timm, a pediatrician, at the Pediatric and Adolescent Clinic said approximately one third of his patients are coming in with the flu.

But Timm said the current virus spreading through town is not be feared.

“It’s nothing phenomenal,” he said. “It has been worse.”

Timm said many of the problems associated with the flu come with the hype the bug carries.

Timm did caution that the flu can be a serious matter.

“In 1918 there was a major epidemic,” he said. “Millions, literally millions died.”

Timm said the flu has three main components that contribute to its severity.

The virulence of the strain, how big of a dose of the strain a person gets and how healthy a person’s immune system is all contribute to how much they will suffer with the flu.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the best way to prevent getting the flu is to vaccinate against it.

Barring that — most flu shots have already been given at this point in the season — the best way to prevent catching the bug is everyday preventative actions.

Those include washing your hands often with soap and water, staying away from people who are sick and avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth, because that is often how germs spread.