School illness back to normal

Two Red Deer public elementary schools are now seeing normal levels of illness after Norovirus symptoms spread through their classrooms last week.

Two Red Deer public elementary schools are now seeing normal levels of illness after Norovirus symptoms spread through their classrooms last week.

Mountview Elementary School saw 64 out of its 515 students stay home on Friday, triggering a protocol to inform Alberta Health Services. On Monday, that number dropped to 47 and by Tuesday, it decreased to 35.

Annie L. Gaetz Elementary also reported up to 15 per cent of its students were ill last week. It has about 335 students in total.

Bruce Buruma, director of community relations for Red Deer Public School District, said on Thursday that both schools were identified as having outbreaks and followed the steps laid out by Alberta Health Services.

Both schools are back to relatively normal incidents of illness and no other schools have seen an increase in flu-like symptoms.

Letters were sent home with children that explained a number of students and staff were sick with vomiting and diarrhea, known as viral gastroenteritis. These types of illnesses are often seen in increasing numbers during the winter months and are often caused by Norovirus.

Norovirus infection is characterized by the sudden onset of vomiting and/or diarrhea with fever and stomach cramps.

The schools, in consultation with public health, advised of the importance of proper handwashing, making sure food is well cooked, and not attending group events until at least 48 hours after symptoms have ended.

Buruma said it appears so far that flu and colds haven’t made a big dent in other schools.

Mountview and Annie L. Gaetz schools were in contact with Alberta Health Services because the schools were experiencing higher than normal incidents of students being sick.

“Alberta Health Services finds schools as a great measure of the overall health of kids . . .” Buruma said. “That’s why we have a protocol in place regarding absences due to an illness. There is a reporting mechanism when it gets to a threshold and then it’s monitored.”

Sandy Bexon, spokeswoman for Chinook’s Edge School Division, said the school district hasn’t yet been alerted to a huge spike of absenteeism due to colds and flu.

She checked with River Glen School and Penhold School this week and found that there are few students who are absent right now due to sicknesses that emerge about now.

In order to prevent a large influx, Bexon said children learn early on about proper hygiene. Handwashing techniques are taught at all schools.

“We really teach about hygiene and personal responsibility about common illnesses,” said Bexon.

Usually, parents have common sense as to whether they should keep their children at home, she added.

Jeanne Davis, spokeswoman for Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools, said they are not seeing any trends for colds and flus right now.

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