Robert C. White, of Robert’s Apothecary, gives a flu shot to a customer. The flu has hit the Golden Triangle earlier than normal and White said he's given more flu shots than ever this year. Photo by: Lee Adams/Dispatch Staff
December 18, 2012 10:26:19 AM
As the weather drops into the colder temperatures, children and parents alike are starting to see fevers increase to dangerous numbers as the flu settles into schools across Columbus.
At Annunciation Catholic School, principal Joni House said children in the lower grades have been hit hardest by the seasonal illness.
Over the past week, dozens of students have been out with the flu; at one point 39 of 152 students were home sick. House said while several students may have ended up being out sick with the flu virus, initially the students were sick with various illnesses, not just the flu.
"When it first started, it wasn't just the flu," she said. "It was the flu, strep and the stomach virus. It's like everything kind of hit at one time."
House said the first grade class was hit hardest with the flu bug, with 13 of the 21 students out at one time.
Dr. Robert White, of Robert's Apothecary, said this flu season has been particularly hard in Mississippi.
"Mississippi is ground zero," he said. "It's spreading from here."
White said he has given more flu shots than ever before this season, but since the flu normally occurs in the early spring, people were not as prepared for this round of the flu.
"It normally hits in March, around the spring holidays," he said. "Occasionally there were cases in December, but this year is more than I can remember."
White said he administered the first flu shot this season just a few weeks ago.
"The first adult was on Nov. 30, and the first child was Dec. 6," he said.
Mary Chance Peeler's daughter, Julia, is a first-grader at Annunciation. Her daughter caught the flu even though she had a flu shot. But Peeler, who is also a nurse practitioner, said the six-year-old did not get a flu shot as early as she should have.
Julia Peeler was out of school for a week, with a fever that climbed to 102 degrees, and she was weak and achy -- all common flu symptoms, her mother said.
She did take Tamiflu, which sped up the recovery process, but her mother still wished she had gotten the shot earlier.
"Children need to get the shot as soon as it is available," Peeler said.
Dr. Thomas Dobbs is the state epidemiologist and said that since the flu is a non-reportable disease, meaning health care providers are not required to report it, the state of Mississippi does not have an exact count of how many people have been diagnosed with the flu.
But those health care providers who have reported flu cases have reported a high volume, he said.
"From our provider network, and also from reports, we very much are seeing a market increase in flu," he said. "It's been a pretty stark and dramatic increase in flu over the last couple of weeks."
Dobbs stressed the importance of getting a flu shot, adding that it needs to be in the body for two weeks before it is fully effective.
House said students are beginning to return to class, and the staff is encouraging students to regularly sanitize and wash their hands.
She said if a child exhibits any flu-like symptoms, parents are encouraged to keep them at home, and if a child has a fever, they cannot return to school unless they have been fever-free for 24 hours.
"If they have a fever at 9 a.m. on a Monday, they cannot return to school until after 9 a.m. on that Tuesday," she said.
Sarah Fowler covers crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.
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