October 2, 2009
Flu hits preschoolers in Goffstown

GOFFSTOWN - About half of the students at the New Morning Schools in Goffstown and Bedford and in their dozens of after-school programs in southern New Hampshire were out with flu-like symptoms the third week of September, the president of the schools said, but attendance is bouncing back.

Illness has not kept many elementary or high school students out of school, however, said Tim Mayes, superintendent for the Bedford School District.

“The doctors are hesitant to call it flu, or anything else, and certainly they don’t test for whether its H1N1,” said Jess Shapiro, president of the pre-school through kindergarten- age schools.

He said that between the schools and after-school programs, New Morning schools serve about 900 students in southern New Hampshire. 

“By middle of last week (attendance) was getting back. I’m not sure it’s all the way,” he said.

He said the illness has also hit a “steady stream of staff members” who have had to take time off. 
“The number one consistent thing I’ve heard from every school nurse, pediatrician, doctor I’ve talked to, is (be) symptom-free for 24 hours. And they’re mainly talking about fever,” he said.

Mayes said only some older students are falling ill. “To the best of my knowledge, we have had good (typical) attendance thus far,” he said. “We have had some students sick, but not necessarily with flu-like symptoms. This could change on a moment’s notice.

Mayes said they are keeping track of illnesses.

“We are reporting our daily absences for faculty and students with the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.information will at some point be available to the public, but at this point in time, it is not.”

Students should not return to school until they have had a normal temperature for 24 hours, said both Mayes and Shapiro.

Mayes posted this advice on the school district’s web site: “We remind parents to keep ill children home until they are well, and children with fever (100 degrees (F) or greater) should be kept out of school until the fever has subsided for 24 hours without the aid of fever reducing medication; and we continue to remind everyone to practice good hand hygiene and cough etiquette to help reduce illness transmission.”

Shapiro expressed concern over the possibility of the illness being the H1N1 flu strain, but he said parents have been very calm about the situation.

“It seems to me that whenever there’s a new name for something ... everybody kind of panics a little bit because it’s something different,” he said.

He said seasonal flu usually strikes later in the school year, so the absences early on were a bit of a surprise. Only one concerned parent called to see if the symptoms a staff member was out with were H1N1, but Shapiro told her that doctors do not routinely test for it.

“I’m really not getting a lot of consternation from parents,” he said.

He said treatment is typically the same for any illness manifesting with flu-like symptoms. “If you talk to the pediatricians, they tell you that if it was one (strain) or the other, the treatment is going to be pretty much the same,” he said.

Ginger Kozlowski also contributed to this article.


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