Flu hits local schools, but cases relatively mild

While flu is in every school in the Augusta area, it has yet to make a big impact in terms of absences in Richmond and Columbia counties, officials said this morning. And while pediatricians say they are seeing a lot of flu cases, most have been relatively mild.

At a news conference at Medical College of Georgia Children’s Medical Center, pediatric emergency physician and flu expert James Wilde said flu is widespread in Georgia and in every school in the area but that most healthy people do not need antiviral treatment and should be cared for at home.

This echoes recommendations made Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pediatrician Karen Foushee of Pediatric Partners said they are seeing “lots and lots” of flu cases but so far have not had to hospitalize any patients. Dr. Wilde said he has seen few severe cases as well.

Columbia County has not seen a significant rate of absenteeism but is allowing children to be excused for up to five days with just a parent note, said Robert Jarrell, assistant superintendent for student support.

Columbia County schools head nurse Lisa Whitlock said schools are following the fever policy of isolating sick kids with a mask before they can be sent home and parents are apparently keeping sick kids out of school. An emphasis on proper handwashing is also apparently working, she said.

“It’s helping,” Mrs. Whitlock said.

Richmond County school system has also not seen a large number of absences and only a couple of special needs classes have been significantly affected, said Carol Rountree, executive director of student services. Sick children in Richmond Count do not need a doctor’s note for an excused absence but need a parent’s note describing the child’s symptoms, she said.

Richmond County schools will host flu shot clinics beginning the week of Sept. 28. Columbia County middle schools will also host flu shot clinics beginning Oct. 3 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to receive the shot, which is $25, Mrs. Whitlock said. The health departments in the respective counties are conducting both school clinics.

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