Flu bug hits local schools

Outbreak at Placer, Del Oro; no evidence virus has peaked in county
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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A particularly nasty round of flu is striking Placer and Del Oro high schools. The strain has been described as like getting run over by a Mack truck and is keeping students at home in bed for long stretches as they battle symptoms that include chills, high temperatures and a dry cough, said Sandy Medlin, school nurse for the Placer Union High School District. “Kids who are getting sick are getting really sick,” Medlin said Friday. “They’re out for a week, then they try to come back, and they have a relapse. It’s hard on the body.” It’s March but that doesn’t mean the flu season is over. In fact, health experts are saying that while Placer County and others around the state haven’t apparently seen a spike in reports of influenza, there’s still time for a spread of the illness during the final weeks of the traditional flu season. “It has arrived at Placer and Del Oro high schools,” Medlin said. “I encourage parents and teachers as well as students to be vaccinated.” Rock Creek Elementary School staff also reported an increase in absences, with students staying out with the flu for four or five days. Dr. Robert Bixler of the Auburn Medical Clinic said that he and colleagues have noticed no new rash of flu cases after a small increase at the end of last year. But Bixler said he’s looking at Centers for Disease Control data mapping that suggests an increase in flu cases is spreading west and nearing California. Along a busy corridor of interstate highway traffic that is also a popular food and rest stop, Auburn is perpetually on the receiving end of westbound viruses as traffic moves over the Donner Summit. “We’re starting to see flares working their way west,” Bixler said. “But the mapping shows it hasn’t hit California yet.” Schools can be an incubator for the latest strain of flu, sweeping through a campus and laying students low. While Placer in Auburn and Del Oro in Loomis are feeling the effects of the flu, at Sierra College in Rocklin, spokeswoman Sue Michaels said school health officials hadn’t seen any upswing from the number of cases that come to them at this time of year. “And we haven’t noticed a dropoff in attendance,” Michaels said. Placer County public health officials also haven’t seen a major surge, information officer Anita Yoder said. “If anything, it’s been less than usual this year,” she said. On a statewide level, Dr. Rob Schechter of the Department of Public Health’s immunization branch said that flu levels vary from region to region this year. There has been no evidence yet of a widespread outbreak. “We’re currently at the regional level of activity — between local and widespread in many parts but not all parts,” he said. Symptoms are similar to other years — including fever, sore throat, headache and muscle aches, he said. With the potential for flu continuing, Schechter said vaccinations are still available and effective. Two strains of flu that vaccinations will guard against have been found in Northern California, he said. “People of all ages can protect themselves through vaccinations,” Schechter said. The flu season usually peaks and it’s still difficult to determine when that peak has or will be reached, he said. “In some years, it has peaked by now and in other years, it was yet to peak,” Schechter said. “It’s season to season.” The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at ---------- Fast flu facts - If you get sick Stay home from work or school Get lots of rest, drink plenty of liquids and avoid using alcohol and tobacco There are effective over-the-counter medications to relieve flu symptoms Remember serious illness from flu is more likely in people over 65, pregnant women, people with certain chronic medical conditions and young children Consult your doctor early on for the best treatment but also be aware of emergency warning signs that require urgent medical attention.