Shawnee Mission monitoring flu rates as 4 schools see high absences this week

Photo credit Aaron Arender.

The national flu epidemic has hit Kansas and Missouri particularly hard — and Shawnee Mission schools are no exception.

District officials report that four elementary schools have seen student absences related to flu-like symptoms top 10 percent this week, a threshold that requires a report to the county health department.

Shawnee Mission Health Services Coordinator Shelby Rebeck, MSN, said that two schools hit the 10 percent mark Monday, but trended down Tuesday and today and are now below the mark. Two additional elementaries hit the 10 percent mark Tuesday, but both were trending down today.

More than 10 Johnson County schools have alerted the health department about above-10 percent infection rates this flu season.

Rebeck said the central administration knew it would be an active flu season ahead of the winter break based on early absentee data from its schools, and worked proactively to communicate to staff and parents about the need to control the virus. School officials continue to stress that if parents suspect their students might have the flu, they need to be kept home. If someone has the flu, they need to stay home and out of contact with other students until they are fever-free for at least 24 hours.

“Education has helped,” Rebeck said. “Parents and staff are helping keep this at bay.”

Controlling the spread of the flu is particularly important in the school setting because the disease can pose a great risk to the young, particularly students with other health conditions. Rebeck noted that the strain of the flu circulating this year tends to cause particularly severe symptoms.

“This reminds me of the H1N1 season, but people this year seem to be getting so much sicker,” Rebeck said.

The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment shows that cases of the flu here appear to have peaked a couple of weeks ago, though total incidence of the disease is still well above average for this time of year.