Schools work to disinfect buildings as flu cases increase

Local schools worked on Friday to disinfect their buildings as state health data released showed flu activity in Ohio remains widespread.

Centerville City Schools, East Dayton Christian School, Wenzler Daycare and Learning Center, and Wilmington City Schools closed on Friday because of the high number of flu cases among staff and students.

Tom Henderson, superintendent of Centerville City Schools, said their absences have increased throughout the week among students and staff. On Thursday, the school district of 8,400 students had about 1,100 absences. About 20 to 22 percent of the high school was out.

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Flu hospitalizations 
Confirmed flu-related hospital stays from Oct. 1 to Jan. 26. 
Source: Ohio Department of Health

Henderson said he can’t recall previous examples of these types of absence rates. The closing on Friday gave extra time to disinfect the school and try to break the illness cycle.

“Even though we’ve been working hard every afternoon and every evening throughout this week to do extra special cleaning and disinfecting of our buildings, this gave us an opportunity to do even more of those kinds of things,” Henderson said.

The new flu numbers released Friday show 3,642 Ohioans were hospitalized this flu season as of Jan. 26, up from the prior weekly report’s count of 3,034 hospitalizations.

There were 453 flu-related hospital stays in Montgomery County for the season as of Jan. 26, up from 405 in last week’s report.

Shannon Cox, Montgomery County Educational Service Center superintendent, said there’s no strict standard on when to close a school for illness and instead schools need to consider different factors like how many students are sick, how many teachers are ill or have ill children then need to care for, the availability of substitutes, and the availability of other staff member such as cafeteria workers.

They also need to consider their cleaning needs, since sometimes schools will need to use different types of products or go above and beyond their daily cleaning schedule.

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Cox said parents play an important role in keeping their children well and preventing the spread of germs. Students’ backpacks, totes, gloves, hats and more should be sanitized to help prevent the spread of the flu and other illnesses.

“We want them to be healthy and we want their students to have a good, successful educational experience,” Cox said.

Students who are ill with flu-like symptoms should remain home for at least 24 hours after they’ve been symptom free, free of fever or signs of fever.

The flu season runs from around October through May and the severity of the season changes every year.

Dan Suffoletto, spokesman for Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County, said if you have a child who is sick, it is a good idea to designate one parent as the caregiver if possible, in order to limit exposure. It is also important to not share items like cups or utensils.

“We want to make sure people take the flu seriously, because thousands of people across the United States die each year from the flu,” he said.

He said it is not too late to get a flu shot and by getting a shot, you are protecting yourself as well as the other people in your life, especially those who flu is particularly dangerous for such as the elderly.

“By protecting yourself, you are protecting others,” he said.

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Suffoletto said that beginning mid February typically there’s a bit of a decrease in cases, but it is important to still remain vigilant and practice good hygiene.

In addition to getting a flu shot, health experts recommend washing your hands often with soap and water or use alcohol-based sanitizer when unable to wash, trying not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth because germs are often spread this way.

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