MOUNT VERNON — There’s no denying it: The cold and flu season is in full swing, and fevers, sniffling and coughing are common throughout the county.
Although the number of students missing school due to illness is somewhat elevated in certain buildings, such as Mount Vernon Middle School, overall attendance rates in the county remain above 90 percent of the student bodies. On Friday, Danville had about 97 percent of the students in attendance, and East Knox had 6.7 percent absent, slightly up from a typical 5 percent absentee rate.
Because MVMS had a 10 percent absentee rate on Friday, a dance and eighth-grade lock-in scheduled for Friday evening were rescheduled. Asked why the dance was canceled and not school, principal Bill White said, “On a normal school day we’re more spread out than we are at a dance. At a dance, we’re confined to one small area with a lot of students in very close proximity. Our utmost reason for being here is academic, so we want to get the academic component in. This [dance] is extracurricular, and we will make it up.”
“Actually, the number of people absent district-wide was higher on Monday than on Thursday,” said Superintendent Steve Short Steve Short. “We try to take students’ safety as a major concern of what we do, but we are also trying not to overreact. But when situations arise where we can make a difference or try to contain an illness, we will. Like a dance, like the lock-in; those are great things for kids and we’re sorry they’re not going to have them, but in the long run, it’s all done for the health and safety of the kids.”
“Social distancing, such as canceling the dance,” said Knox County Health Commissioner Dennis Murray, “is an effective means of preventing the spread of an illness. I think the school made an excellent decision here.”
Asked about closing school due to illness, East Knox superintendent John Marschhausen said, “From what we’ve been told and from what the [Centers for Disease Control] is recommending, closing doesn’t help, because as soon as you come back, the people who haven’t been vaccinated or haven’t had it are just as susceptible as they were before. So, we’re going to make every attempt to continue to provide instruction of the students who are healthy. ... The big thing is, if your kids are sick, please keep them home.”
The schools are making extra efforts to keep school buildings clean and to sanitize items as much as possible. For instance, Fredericktown custodians are redoubling their efforts to wash down hard surfaces such as doors, door knobs and drinking fountains; East Knox personnel also are providing hand sanitize bottles for every classroom.
Although health officials say the best way to prevent flu is to get a vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are several secondary measures one can take to reduce the chances of getting sick.
•Flu is a respiratory illness, spread by sneezing and coughing. To reduce the risk of getting the flu, try to avoid contact with anyone who is sneezing or coughing.
•Do not stand too close to others during conversation. The flu can be transmitted through the small amount of saliva that is naturally expelled during speech.
•Anyone already sick should cover his or her nose and mouth to prevent spreading germs to others.
•Cover a cough, not with a hand, but with an arm or shoulder. That can reduce the likelihood of transmitting a virus.
•Avoid touching your nose and mouth. Flu germs can be spread by door handles or other surface transmission.
•Wash hands frequently, especially after shaking hands or after spending time in crowded areas such as schools and businesses. Hand washing, and the use of alcohol hand gels can reduce the spread of viruses, and that can reduce the risk of getting an infection.
•Anyone who is sick, has a fever or has flu-like illness, should stay home. Don’t go to school. Don’t send your children to school. Don’t go to work.
•There are a few antiviral medications that have been approved for flu prevention, but all three of them are prescription drugs. Consult a doctor for more information.