The seasonal flu targets high school students


Washing hands help prevent the spread of germs and the flu. Photo by THERESA KIM

Ariella Appleby uses the school’s new hand sanitzer in room C-2 on Feb.14. Photo by THERESA KIM

It excuses nearly 75 students from school each day, it causes body aches and causes over 100 degree fevers. The seasonal flu affects the young and the old and is the most severe in young children and senior citizens, especially students coming in contact with multiple sick students daily.

Most commonly known as the flu, influenza, can cause further complications if not properly taken care of. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website the flu is one of the leading causes of death in U.S. civilians. The flu takes the lives of more than 50,000 people which is more than suicide related deaths according to the 2011 data. If not taken care of properly, the flu can cause  pneumonia, bronchitis, ear infections and sinus infections.

With the flu season hitting early in the 2012-2013 season, when for the past 30 years according to the CDC has been in February to March, flu prevention has become crucial for everyone. The CDC suggests getting flu vaccines and taking action to stop the spread of germs. Walgreens and Safeway, on Sunset Blvd. as well as the Rite Aid on Pleasant Grove Blvd. offer flu shots at a reasonable price and accept some types of insurance as well. The cost of flu vaccines with insurance at a local pharmacy or market can range from $20-30.

According to an average student has 762,000 close encounters with the flu virus daily. Coming within 10 feet of someone with the flu increases the risk of catching the flu. Even touching a desk where a sick student sat can increase the risk of catching the flu.

“Students should wash hands before they eat and after they touch things like desks and not share drinks and food,” school nurse Ms. Sarah Leverenz said.

During the peak of school absences an average of four to five students are absent in each classroom which is why principal Mrs. Debra Hawkins added foam hand sanitizers to all the computer classrooms along with the weight rooms.

“An ounce of protection is the best prevention, we spent about 300 dollars on the hand sanitizers. When one of my family members got sick over the holiday I asked the family physician why we wipe our shopping carts, but he said the germiest places are keypads on ATMs, phones and keyboards. Sharing phones or touching a keypad and not washing your hands increases your risk of getting sick, which had me install the sanitizers,” Hawkins said.

Foam makes the hands less sticky and prevent students from misusing them, by fooling around with it.

“Adding sanitizers to classrooms help prevent the spread of germs, teachers don’t have time to sanitize after each class period so adding them and enforcing students to use them help keep the spread of germs,” Hawkins said.

The flu also has a large impact on students as well, worried about falling behind in classes. The flu can take a student out of school for over 5 days making it difficult to catch up in difficult classes such as AP and honors classes.

“Personally, when I miss school, school gets tougher. If you miss one day you can miss tests, quizzes and new material. It’s hard to catch up because students are always busy. Intervention is probably the best invention ever. It  forces me to catch up and not be lazy. When I am home sick I usually check Edline to see if I missed anything. Lately, teachers have created Facebook pages which helps students when they are sick. Sometimes I have been severely sick and needed to go to school because I had the fear of falling behind and didn’t want to miss my sport practice,” junior Emily Haines said.

But coming to school sick even with good intentions is dangerous for others.

“Sometimes students come to school sick because they are worried about missing school, but when students have a fever and are coughing a lot (teachers and administration) suggest they stay home until they are fever-free,” Hawkins said.

The flu shares some symptoms with the common cold such as getting chills, coughing, and experiencing chest discomfort. However the flu also causes headaches and body aches in the arms and legs. Although the flu and cold share similar symptoms there are slight differences; both cause chest discomfort but it is more severe with the flu. Both cause coughing but the flu causes dry coughing whereas the common cold causes wet mucus-like coughing.
Prevention before catching the flu is especially important to those who are at a higher risk, such as people over 65 and children. Getting vaccinated, frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and avoiding large crowds are some of the ways one can prevent catching and spreading the flu.

“(Teachers and students) should get enough sleep, eat well, drink a lot of fluids and wash hands in order to prevent catching the flu,” Leverenz said.