Wash your hands.
Cough and sneeze into tissues or your elbow area instead of your hands.
Stay at home if you are sick.
These are a few of the messages Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) teachers and staff use to remind students to prevent the spread of germs. The messages take on added importance this time of the year as flu season reaches its peak and superbugs, infections and flu bugs creep through Charles County and into our classrooms, said James E. Richmond, superintendent of schools.
Phylis Reinard, supervising school nurse, said the Charles County Department of Health and CCPS are practical in efforts to "Prevent the Spread." There are a number of flu-busting activities that occur every day, and it starts with education. "We teach children proper respiratory etiquette, which encourages covering coughs and sneezes, but not with hands that are used to touch other objects. Employees monitor hand washing, particularly among our youngest students, and do a lot of gentle reminding to children who might forget," Reinard said.
According to information from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, many people use "stomach flu" to describe illness with nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Many different viruses, bacteria, or parasites can cause these symptoms. While the flu can sometimes cause vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea--more commonly in children than adults -- these problems are rarely the main symptoms of the flu. The flu is a respiratory disease and not a stomach or intestinal disease. Symptoms can last up to two weeks and people can infect others one day before symptoms develop and five to seven days after symptoms appear.
School nurses teach healthy habits and are available to check children who become ill at school. "We recognize the immediate threat of diseases and infections like the flu and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) and the potential they have to spread quickly in the close confines of schools. We take great care in keeping children healthy and in school, but we also do not hesitate to send sick children home," Reinard said. School nurses and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that anyone – student or staff member – with a flu-like illness stay home and not return to school until they are fever free for at least 24 hours without the use of medicines like Tylenol.
School building service workers are on the front line and clean daily with hospital-grade disinfectants, especially in high-touch areas like desks and doorknobs. They also make extra efforts to check soap dispensers and to provide hand sanitizers.
School administrators do daily checks of school attendance and nurse visits. CCPS works with the health department to help track and curb the impact of illnesses, including seasonal flu and MRSA. Staff from both agencies meet regularly to adjust plans that help reduce the spread of infection while providing support for students and teachers who may become ill.
"We know parents are looking for answers when determining if they should keep their child home from school. Fever is one sign of the flu, but not always present. We recommend that anyone with flu-like illnesses should stay home," Reinard said.
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,700 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 35 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX Coordinator and Section 504 Coordinator (students), or Connie W. Armstead, Section 504 Coordinator (employees/adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, Maryland 20646; (301) 932-6610/870-3814. For special accommodations call (301) 934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.