Number of sick students on the rise

September 4, 2009 3:35:33 PM PDT
There seems to be an increase in the number of students calling out sick. It's not unexpected, especially with parents being told to keep kids at home if they start to show flu-like symptoms. So how is a school supposed to respond if a high number of kids are absent? At Keefer Middle School in New Caney, more than 100 students called in sick sometime this week. That's one out of every seven who attend the school. Many are reporting flu like symptoms and that's got some parents worried.

Twelve-year-old Haylie Ann's fever last week spiked at over 104 degrees. And then her sister, 8-year-old McKenzie, got sick.

"The worst part of it was the headache cause you couldn't go away," she said.

But by this Wednesday, both girls were back in school and noticed many of their classmates were not.

McKenzie goes to New Caney elementary, where the district says a mere 28 out of 800 students missed school this week, which is about three-and-a-half percent.

Haylie Ann, though, goes to Keefer Crossing, where the district says 107 out of 690 students were sick, which is 14 percent.

"This is a very scary situation for me," said the girls' mother, Jill Barrera.

The numbers scare Barrera, who wishes the district had notified parents, especially with heightened concern about swine flu.

"We have no confirmed cases of swine flu," said New Caney ISD Superintendent Kenn Franklin. "These have just been flu like symptoms."

Franklin is quick to address suspicions of swine flu, but since local health departments stopped testing every possible instance of swine flu over the summer at the CDC's recommendation, there's simply no way to know for sure in most cases.

Health officials with whom we spoke say cases of the flu do seem to be up region-wide, perhaps more than normal for this time of year. Regardless, a spokesperson for the health department says treatment is the same and so is the prevention.

"We're taking extra precautions, for sure," said Franklin.

The school says it's monitoring the number of absences of campuses. The district also says it's working closely with Montgomery County Health Department and is supplying campuses with additional hand sanitizer and sanitizing surfaces more frequently.

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