by marlys good
Pink eye, strep throat, bronchitis, or just the old-fashioned flu? All are culprits in the increased absences among Greybull students, staff and among the community at large since the middle of January.
When contacted Feb. 14, GES Principal Brenda Jinks said absences have been as high as 15 a day. “The past two or three weeks were bad; we are starting to see a downward trend now. We’re actually thankful that we have not had it worse than what we had.”
She believes this is because of the sanitary and precautionary measures that have been taken.
”We visited with all the children (in health classes and home rooms) and told them to make sure they wash their hands thoroughly, with soap and water, and dry them thoroughly. We also have quantities of hand sanitizers in the classrooms.”
This is in direct line with advisories from the Wyoming Department of Health to “cover your mouth and nose with your sleeve or a tissue when you sneeze and cough; wash your hands frequently and stay home if you are sick.”
According to school district policy, students are allowed eight absences per semester; after eight, a doctor’s note is required.
The janitorial staff wipes down desks, chairs, computer keyboards and computer mouse with germicides. “Our staff is phenomenal,” Jinks said.
GMS secretary Christine McMillan said on normal days there will be “usually five or six students absent.” That has increased to an average of 10-15 since the middle of January, and the staff has also been hit.
“Right now we are holding steady – not going up or down. Kids are out two or three days for sure, and some have been out four days at least.” She described it as “old-fashioned flu, complete with the vomiting, with some strep and a few cases of pink eye and bronchitis thrown in for good measure.”
While GES absences are on the downward trend and are holding steady at the middle school, at the high school there were 21 absent Feb. 13. “It was our biggest day,” said secretary Tina Spragg.
Shauna Ewen, R.N., said they have had an increased patient load at Big Horn Clinic. This encompasses “all age groups and all towns; it is not centered in one town or one age group.”
PA Nick Rasmussen at Big Horn Clinic said that facility has seen a “lot more of the bronchitis and strep” as opposed to flu. “We haven’t been hit with the flu too hard yet, haven’t tested too much for it.”
Those coming for treatment and diagnosed with strep throat are given antibiotics and advised to stay home for 48 hours. Rasmussen added, “At a bare minimum, they should stay home for 24 hours – until the fever is gone, without Tylenol or Advil.”
Patients with bronchitis are generally treated with an antibiotic “and depending on how they look and sound after a physical exam they may be given an inhaler to help with the cough.”
Rasmussen said, “We are just getting ramped up for the flu.” Usually, he said, they do not treat ordinary flu cases, unless “they are very young, old or have ongoing chronic conditions, asthma or something like that. Just make sure you stay hydrated, stay on Tylenol or Ibuprofon, wash your hands and stay home.”
As for washing your hands, he laughed, “If you think you are washing your hands enough do it twice as much, then wash them some more.”
He also advises those over the age of 65 to get a flu shot or the pneumonia vaccine. They will definitely help.”
Dr. Dusty Hill at Midway Clinic said they have had about a 70 percent increase in patients with upper respiratory illnesses. “It has been absolutely incredible,” he said. The clinic has also treated a number of cases of strep throat, several of mononucleosis and numerous cases of pink eye.
The upper respiratory cases are split 50-50 viral versus bacterial and Hill said, “Some start out as viral then go into a secondary bacterial infection. We treat (them) with aggressive antibiotics, a broad spectrum of antibiotics, with cough medications and maybe dialaters to open the airways.”
Pink eye is extremely contagious; it’s spread hand-to-hand and parents are urged to wash/keep all clothing, bedding and toys as clean as possible. He explained that the bacteria can live on appliances/articles for several days.
As for sore throats, Dr. Hill said “gargle with salt water, a full cup of water with one tablespoon of salt, once or twice a day. Studies have shown that this can reduce symptoms by half,” and sip on hot water sweetened with honey. Hill said these might seem like “old wives tales” but they have been shown to be very effective.