Bit of a bug going around

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 5, 2003

Certainly there's a bit of illness in the air, but nothing too much to worry about, said local school officials.

Troy Elementary School set the year's high for number of students absent on Tuesday, according to Kenneth Bynum, administrative assistant to the superintendent, but he downplayed the significance of the peak. With an average of 39 students absent on any given day, 173 missed school Tuesday, a figure that also includes students who check out for non-medical reasons.

&uot;It's not a major problem,&uot; Bynum said. &uot;We've monitored the situation closely and we're not at an epidemic stage yet. Our nurses are on top of it.&uot;

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The absences have not spilled over to other schools, Bynum said. At Charles Henderson Middle School, where 29 students are absent on an average day, 53 missed school Tuesday, but that number is still well below the high of 78 set earlier in the fall. At Charles Henderson High School, 47 students missed class Tuesday, only seven above the average.

Pike County has fared much better in terms of wellness than some neighboring counties. A representative from the Geneva County school system said schools closed down Monday due to excessive illness. East Highland Middle School in Coosa County reported about 110 students out of 330 absent for all or part of the day on Jan. 21.

Mark Bazzell, Superintendent of Pike County Schools said things weren't nearly so bleak in the county schools.

&uot;We've had a number of days where we've had more than what you'd normally expect, but they've been isolated days and nothing extended over time,&uot; he said. &uot;I have gotten some reports from Goshen and Banks that the rate is higher than usual, but it hasn't been consistent and hasn't run for three or four days in a row. We certainly haven't had the problems that other systems are experiencing, but we're continuing to monitor it.&uot;

Bynum said the high numbers of absences at TES were predictable, given trends of recent weeks.

&uot;Our numbers are a little high at the elementary school, but there were some check outs for dental and doctors' appointments,&uot; he said. &uot;The numbers have been going up lately. Last week it was in the 50s and then in the 70s.&uot;

According to Sarah Black, head nurse at TES, there have been some unhappy young people in her office lately.

&uot;Most have headaches and high fevers. Some actually have the flu and sore throats,&uot; she said.

Black said not many teachers have been stricken by the foul strain of illness.

&uot;Some have been absent, but not due to sickness. Some have sick children. The health department gave out

flu shots and we haven't had many teachers sick. That's very good.&uot;

According to Black, Wednesday's in-service day allowed time without students in the building to sanitize various fixtures of disease-contaminated fluids.

&uot;Everything is being cleaned, including bathrooms and door handles,&uot; she said.

Black said getting the sick kids home was an important part of containing any spread.

&uot;If they say they have a headache, I'll check their temperature. We'll send them home if it's 99.6 or above. We've had some 104s,&uot; she said. &uot;I don't like to diagnose because I can get in trouble with parents for that. If they want to take them to the doctor, that's up to them. They do have to pick them up from school though and we don't want to expose other children.&uot;

Stephen Stetson can be reached at stephen.stetson