PINEHURST — The Kellogg School District has announced that Pinehurst Elementary School will be canceling classes for the remainder of the week due to excessive absences. The absences are due to a more than normal increase in influenza cases sweeping through the school.
Kellogg superintendent Woody Woodford told the News-Press that of the 430 total students enrolled at Pinehurst Elementary, the attendance office indicates that 140 of them missed school on Jan. 9 due to illness. This is roughly 32 percent of the student body.
According to the Panhandle Health District (PHD), who works closely with school districts in our region regarding these matters, they start monitoring schools who go above eight percent and recommend a closure if they go above 30 percent for three days in a row.
Jan. 9 would be the second day that the school has been above that mark.
Pinehurst Elementary plans on reopening on Monday, Jan. 15. All other schools in the Silver Valley currently remain open, but this may change as time goes on.
This news comes during a stronger than normal flu season that has already claimed the lives of 13 people in Idaho; 8 coming from the five northern counties.
PHD recommends that all people 6 months of age and older get immunized against flu, saying that the vaccine promotes antibody protection within two weeks.
“We are seeing flu cases throughout northern Idaho,” PHD epidemiologist Jeff Lee said, “Typically, the peak of the flu season is January through March, so it’s not too late to get a flu shot.”
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while vaccine effectiveness can vary, recent studies show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40 and 60 percent during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are well-matched to the flu vaccine. Vaccination may also reduce flu illness severity.
The flu vaccine works best among healthy adults and older children. Some older people and people with certain chronic illnesses might develop less immunity than healthy children and adults after vaccination. However, even for these people, the flu vaccine still may provide some protection.
“Most people who get the flu will have mild illness and recover quickly, but certain groups are at high risk for developing flu complications that can sometimes result in hospitalization and occasionally death,” SRHD epidemiologist Mark Springer said. “Your best chance at protecting your loved ones, and yourself, from flu is to get a flu shot.”
Sick individuals should also talk to their providers about antiviral drugs, an important second line of defense that can be used to treat flu illness. Health officials recommend the use of antiviral drugs as early as possible to treat flu illness in people who are very sick with flu and those at high risk of serious flu complications.
Flu viruses spread when people with flu expel droplets from their mouths or noses while coughing, sneezing or talking. People can also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or nose. In addition to flu vaccination, both health districts also recommend frequent hand washing with warm water and soap, covering coughs and sneezes and staying home if sick.