Tyler County students battle flu symptoms
With a steady rise in the number of absences due to flu-like illnesses, Tyler County School Superintendent Jeff Hoover issued a notice Friday afternoon calling for the closure of all schools through Thursday, making Tyler County the third school system in the state to cancel classes due to illness this fall.
The decision was made at the direction of health officials from the Wetzel-Tyler Health Department. Though the notice did not directly blame the H1N1 virus for the closing, regional data shows 99 percent of people test positive for the flu.
According to Dorothy Lockett, nurse administrator for the Wetzel-Tyler Health Department, two of the schools reported 33 percent absentee rate on Friday morning – by noon both schools were reporting rates upwards of 40 percent with students being sent home by the school nurse with flu symptoms. While the pre-school program in Middlebourne reported an absentee rate of more than 50 percent.
Lockett explained, “We have been monitoring the attendance of all schools in our area and Tyler’s absentee numbers were creeping up. By Wednesday, they had crept up significantly.”
Lockett said the decision was made due to student absences but she also attributed the closing to a large number of teacher absences. “They were having trouble getting substitute teachers (in Tyler County) and if you don’t have teachers, you can’t have school.”
As a result, all of the district’s students and teachers were notified in writing and via the Board of Education’s telephone messaging system that schools would be closed through today in an attempted to stop the spread of influenza.
School and health officials plan to re-evauluate the situation on Thursday, when the schools are scheduled to reopen.
“The only way to stop the spread of the flu is for parents to keep their children at home and away from other people. With the weekend and the holiday, the closure will give students and teachers five days to recover.” Lockett commented.
In the meantime, all sports events and activities in Tyler County have been postponed, including basketball tryouts.
According to Lockett, local health officials do not anticipate the closures to spread north into Wetzel County. “They (Wetzel County) are weathering the storm a little better,” she commented.
The state Department of Health and Human Resources reports the H1N1 virus is now widespread throughout the state with roughly 13,000 cases of influenza-like illnesses reported so far this year.