Lowcountry schools seeing higher numbers of flu, some closing lower grades

BEAUFORT, Sc. (WSAV) – Schools across the Lowcountry are seeing higher numbers of the flu this year, some are even closing down lower grade levels to stop the spread.

“The preschool was at about 30 percent when it really broke out, by the end of the day it 47 percent,” said Beaufort Academy’s Head of School Dan Durbin.

That was Monday.

“While we were dealing with that, our lower school which would be elementary, we suddenly saw that start to rise, and then five or six came in sick and had fever,” he added, “So we pay attention to that and say ‘Ok, we know that these two levels, we’ve got to do something about now.'”

That’s when they decided to close down their lower division schools, preschool through 4th grade.

“For administrators,” Durbin explained, “You sometimes have to make the decision between ‘What is the correct move for the safety of a child?’ versus your administrative duty of how many days and those types of things.”

At the Beaufort County District level, they’re not there, yet.

We’ve had 137 confirmed cases of the flu since our kids came back from winter break,” said Jim Foster with the district, “That amounts to one in every 200 kids in the district. But those numbers are still higher than they’ve been the last two or three years, so it’s definitely something we’re paying attention to.”

Numbers are the highest south of the Broad, in Bluffton and Hilton Head.

“We do a flu count and our count is a confirmed flu so that means they’ve gone to their physician, they’ve gotten a flu swab, parents are telling us yes they’re positive for the flu,” said Denise Unruh the nursing coordinator with the district, “So our numbers are double than what we had last year.”

That’s why they’re putting custodians into high gear.

“They are using a hospital grade disinfectant, every night, they’re wiping down students’ desk, teachers’ desks,” Foster said, “Cafeteria tables, stair railings and also every doorknob in the school.”

They say the rules are simple: if your child doesn’t have a fever, send them to school.

“If your child has a temp of a 100 or greater, please keep them at home, and be wary of those signs and symptoms… cough, sore throat, achiness,” Unruh said, “There’s also a stomach flu going around, so the vomiting or diarrhea, please keep your child at home, take them to the physician.”

“It’s not easy to make a decision over night for families who have working parents,” Durbin said, “But the other side of that is, if we as administrators don’t look at the issue and look at it from standpoint of the health and safety of a child, a parent’s not going to forgive if we pass it onto their child and there are complications.”

Beaufort Academy plans to open all schools again on Monday.

Nurses say the best thing your child can do is wash their hands, often. You may even want to give them hand sanitizer in their backpack or lunch pale.

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