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Streator, Ottawa schools hit by flu season

'It's hitting a peak right now'

Influenza season is in full swing and schools are seeing an increase in cases post-winter break.

School officials are telling parents not to send their child to school if they have a fever, or send them back to school until their fever has been gone for at least 24 hours.

“Right now, I’d say attendance-wise, we’re seeing more students missing school due to illness than usual,” said Streator Northlawn Nurse Diane Gapinski. “It’s just that we’re at that time of year and we see this every year. It’s hitting a peak right now.”

Gapinski said students come back from winter break with some form of cold or flu every year.

“I encourage everyone to get a flu shot and live healthy,” Gapinski said. “Get plenty of rest. Eat a nutritious diet. Keep up on your hygiene, wash your hands, incorporate all of that year round.”

Gapinski said Northlawn’s student handbook rules are if a student has a fever of 100 degrees or higher, they must stay home until it’s been gone for 24 hours. The same rule applies to vomiting.

Ottawa Elementary Schools follow a similar rule.

Lincoln Elementary Principal Melanie Conley said this cold and flu season has been consistent with past years and while there are students missing classes, there aren’t any more than an ordinary January.

“If they’re not fever free, we can’t have them at school,” Conley said. “They need to be fever-free for 24 hours and we can send work home with them to keep them caught up.”

Gapinski said she’s been in contact with local doctors and emergency care facilities and they’re also seeing a higher volume of flu cases, not just children, this year than last. 

“I know from years of experience from nursing and from being here at the school that this is what flu season is like,” Gapinski said. “Doctors in the area are all encouraging flu shots. They help you develop immunity if you get them every year.”

Gapinski said it’s normal for the flu to take people out of action for anywhere from five to seven days.

“It’s not fun at all,” Gapinski said. 

Centennial School in Streator posted on their Facebook page Jan. 22 requesting that parents take extra steps in making sure they were keeping sick children home.

“Flu and cold season has hit the building!” they said in the post. “We are seeing strep, Flu B and lots of fevers. We are in confined spaces all day and it spreads fast. Your child must be fever free for 24 hours before coming back to school. Please help the rest of us stay healthy by following this policy. Advil and Tylenol wear off at noon.”

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