Schools to report flu cases to state

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

POPLARVILLE, MS (WLOX) - Posters along the hallways remind students to practice good hygiene.  And every day, teachers explain the importance of fighting germs and learning the warning signs of sickness.

"A fever, a cough, a sore throat," one teacher told her students at Poplarville Upper Elementary. "So we got a fever, automatically stay home, right?"

At all four schools in the Poplarville School District, custodians are constantly cleaning and sanitizing surfaces where students often touch.

"We spray all the classrooms and wipe the desks," explained one custodian.

These precautions started earlier this week, after several students in the school district were infected with the Type-A flu.  According to state health officials, most influenza-A is the H1N1 virus, commonly known as the Swine Flu.  Principals also noticed a rise in absenteeism.

"It is out of the ordinary and that's basically what got our attention.  We have monitored this, so evidently there is some sickness that's going through our school district," said Poplarville School Superintendent Carl Merritt.

On Wednesday, the school district reported 326 students in Poplarville were absent from school.  However, the superintendent says there's no way for the district to really know how many of those students actually have the flu.

"Unless I have that data from the health services that are being provided to these students, it's almost impossible for me to tell the Mississippi Education Department I know the exact number that have the flu-like symptoms," Merritt said.

All four schools in the district remain open.  And the staff will continue to closely monitor students and communicate with state health and education leaders.

"Hopefully, it won't rise in magnitude as far as the severity of it," said Merritt. "My understanding of it is the symptoms are very mild. But again, we don't want to minimize the fact that this is a health issue."

Merritt is also urging parents to keep their children at home if they are sick. The Mississippi Department of Education has posted updated information about the H1N1 virus and the reported flu cases.

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