Farmington fights the flu

School district has not been hit as hard as other areas

by Jennifer Chick
Sun Thisweek

The flu has hit Farmington schools, but not as bad as it appears to be affecting other areas.

According to Gail Setterstrom, the district’s health services coordinator and licensed school nurse, all of the schools have students with illnesses ranging from confirmed cases of influenza to strep throat and nausea, but only one elementary school reported 5 percent of the school’s population out with influenza-like illnesses last week.

By Tuesday morning, all schools were below the 5 percent mark required for state reporting. Setterstrom said the long weekend may have helped students rest and recuperate.

“We’re finding a mixed bag of all sorts of things,” Setterstrom said. “I think last year was kind of a light year, and this is a little more than last year, but it still isn’t the worst.”

When calling the school’s attendance line to report that a student is sick, parents are encouraged to leave details about the type of illness, which helps the district with tracking and reporting that information.

Influenza is a respiratory illness and should not be confused with stomach viruses. Influenza symptoms come on quickly and include fever, dry cough, sore throat, headache, extreme tiredness, nasal congestion, and body aches. Often children with influenza are too tired and weak to play.

If children are experiencing these symptoms, they should be kept at home until they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the aid of any type of fever-reducing medicine, Setterstrom said. Then, she said parents should make sure their children are strong enough and have the endurance to make it through the school day before returning.

Good resources for parents are and the Minnesota Department of Health. Farmington Schools also has links to information on its health services web page. Setterstrom said parents should contact their local health care providers. Often, those clinics have nurse lines where parents can call for advice as to the type of illness they are seeing in their homes.

In the schools, staff members are encouraging students to keep healthy by covering their coughs and sneezing into their sleeves, washing their hands and eating healthy. If children are sick, they should stay home and all children should make sure they are getting enough sleep. Setterstrom said it’s not too late to get the flu shot if people haven’t yet done that.

If students are sick at school, all Farmington school buildings have nurses on staff to assess the situation.

“I’m grateful we have nurses, and they do assess and intervene so kids are home sooner and then can come back ready to learn,” Setterstrom said.

What keeps students healthy are the same habits that adults should follow. Setterstrom said it is not yet the peak of flu season so people must remain vigilant.

“We need to be really careful not to spread those germs,” Setterstrom said. “Wash your hands. That’s one of the best ways to keep yourself healthy.”

And she’s not talking about a quick rinse under the water. She recommends washing for at least 20 seconds with soap.

“We are feeling really grateful that at least our school population is staying healthier that what we are seeing in other places,” Setterstrom said.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 476 people were hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza last week. Since the start of the influenza season, 1,842 have been hospitalized and 60 influenza-related deaths have been confirmed.