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Across New York State, NYSUT-Represented School Nurses And Custodians Are ‘Staring Down’ The Flu & Other Illnesses

Published Sunday, February 2, 2020
by Liza Frenette/NYSUT Communications
Across New York State, NYSUT-Represented School Nurses And Custodians Are ‘Staring Down’ The Flu & Other Illnesses

(ACROSS NEW YORK STATE) - The first Flu Season of 2020 has School Nurses on high alert as they care for weak and ill students, track cases and provide information to parents, School Staff and County Health Departments.

Last week, there were 13,483 confirmed cases of flu in New York - up 22% from the prior week to according to the New York State Department of Health.

In the Capital Region, Birchwood Elementary School in the Niskayuna District was just closed for a day due to so many cases of the flu. 

Custodians scoured the building throughout the weekend.

School Nurse Kim Towne – who’d gotten the flu herself - stressed the importance of staying home when sick to keep from spreading illness and to prevent contracting another illness.

Last week, Towne was still working in a flurry of flu-struck kids.

Towne urges parents to keep sick children home: “Please ‘don’t send them back if they’re just fever free.’  ‘They are still worn out and susceptible to illness.’”

At the high school, where four curtained sick beds are available for students, 25 more cases were reported earlier last week and seven students were sent home.

“We’re approaching twenty-percent of the school’s population ‘and it hasn’t peaked yet,’” said Niskayuna Middle School Nurse Carol Werblin, who also serves as President of the Niskayuna Nurses Association - a Local Union affiliated with the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) Union.

Here are some tips offer by Werblin to parents: Keep students home when they have an elevated temperature in the morning.  Do not just treat it and send them to school; Keep a child home until fully well; Wash hands frequently, use friction, and wash them for a sustained amount of time; School Nurses are being extremely vigilant about finding out why students are absent, so they can track illnesses; and Alert the school community.  Nurses contact the parent(s) of every child who is absent during first period and discuss the nature of the student’s illness.

“We ‘promote close supervision of why’ children are absent,” Werblin said. “We ‘certainly play an important part during times like this.’”

She urges parents of ill students to get them to a doctor immediately.

A doctor can perform a nasal swab and determine if the illness is the flu.

If it is, early intervention with flu medicine can make a difference.

Doctors also report flu findings to the state Department of Health.

The Niskayuna Nurses' pro-active approach to absenteeism helps to track flu cases and speaking with parents on the phone makes a difference.

In a conversation with one parent Werblin learned a student had a 103.2 fever.

“That’s ‘pretty high’ for a middle schooler in the morning (Fevers tend to spike later in the day.) The kid ‘was also achy. I recommended calling the doctor or urgent care because of the number of kids with flu,’” Werblin said.

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