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Schools, universities coping with sick students, faculty

POSTED: March 7, 2008 5:01 a.m.

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In her 11 years at Brenau University, Anna Wilkins hasn’t seen a flu season like this one.

Wilkins, director of student health, said her office is diagnosing eight to 10 cases a week.

Students arrive complaining of fever topping 100 degrees and aches and pains — classic flu signs. "You can usually tell the flu when it comes through the door," Wilkins said.

She said if students test positive, the clinic gives them the antiviral drug Tamiflu "and sends them home or isolates them to their (dormitory) rooms."

The flu is finding its way into other colleges and school systems throughout Northeast Georgia.

"We are seeing a lot of faculty and students with flu-like symptoms and respiratory illnesses," said Jackie Bryant, a registered nurse and pandemic flu coordinator at Lanier Technical College in Oakwood.

"Most have congestion, cough and headaches. It seems to have started last week, and in some classes we are seeing about one-third of the students affected and absent."

The number of flu cases at North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega has increased to 117 this year from 12 last year, said Joshua Preston, the college’s spokesman.

"Students who show flulike symptoms do not attend class and are sent home in most cases," Preston said.

Details on Gainesville State College’s flu situation weren’t available Monday.

Liz Rachun, a spokeswoman for the University of Georgia’s Health Center, says health care workers have treated 485 people with flulike symptoms since Jan. 21. She says that compares to 106 cases during the same period last year.

School systems also are reporting more absences.

Jefferson school system Superintendent John Jackson says Jefferson Elementary School reported a 30 percent rise in absences because of flu and other illnesses.

Officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that the flu season is getting worse, and said it’s partly because the flu vaccine doesn’t protect against most of the spreading flu bugs. They say the flu shot is a good match for only about 40 percent of this year’s flu viruses.

Gainesville and Hall County schools are seeing a normal absenteeism this time of the year, officials in both systems say.

"We’re probably running 90 to 98 percent in attendance, so our attendance is looking good," said Paula Sawyer, health services coordinator for the Gainesville system.

"It varies from week to week, but I have not had an overwhelming amount of reports that there’s flu everywhere," she added.

Health officials say that although there’s no outbreak, students and their families need to remain vigilant about safety precautions.

"The same school nurse message is good hand washing," said Mamie Coker, head nurse for the Hall County system.

Also, she advises, stay home if you have a fever, and don’t return to school until you’re fever-free — without the aid of fever-reducing medicines — for 24 hours.

"We preach good attendance. However, when you’re sick, we want you to stay home until you’re better," Coker said.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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