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School reports many students miss first day back after vacation

Thu., Jan. 10, 2013

Sickness blamed for high absentee rate

Anyone who works in an office or has a child in day care or school can tell you that something nasty is going around.

Spokane Valley’s Progress Elementary saw a considerable number of absences Monday. Principal Matt Chisholm said that tells him something is going on.

About 14 percent of the school’s 372 students were absent Monday, although that number dropped in half by Tuesday, Chisholm said. Illnesses were reported throughout the school.

He wondered if Monday’s snow had anything to do with the unusual absence rate. A day with an absentee rate of 10 percent or higher is rare, he added.

Central Valley School District has received several reports of flulike symptoms from absent students, district spokeswoman Melanie Rose said. People feel the effects of the virus quickly. Symptoms include fever, body aches, fatigue, headaches, coughing, sore throats and stuffy nose.

Still, it’s too early to declare an early or pronounced flu season in Spokane County, Spokane Regional Health District spokeswoman Kim Papich said. That kind of conclusion can only be determined at the end of the season or by documented deaths from the flu, Papich added.

So far, 24 flu patients have been hospitalized in 2013, said Papich, and the district only tracks flu cases based on hospital results.

About 13 percent of Central Valley students were absent Monday, said district spokeswoman Melanie Rose; that percentage included excused, unexcused and tardy students as well.

The virus tends to peak in Spokane County during February and March, lagging after states on the East Coast, which have considerably higher population than areas on the West Coast.

Chisholm said teachers work with kids to avoid spreading germs, teaching students to wash their hands regularly and to sneeze and cough into sleeves instead of their hands so they don’t spread germs to door knobs or sink faucets.

Papich recommends parents keep children home from school if they start feeling sick, and consider getting a flu shot, which is free for children in Washington, as a preventive measure.

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