The flu: How it’s affecting Cullman schools and what you can do to fight it

(Stock image courtesy of Pixabay)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The influenza virus, more commonly known as the flu, can be rampant around this time of year. According to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), since the week of Jan. 4, 2020, what the ADPH refers to as the Northern Public Health District counties (Lauderdale, Colbert, Franklin, Marion, Winston, Limestone, Madison, Jackson, Lawrence, Morgan, Marshall and Cullman), are experiencing a “widespread” level of flu cases.  

Widespread means influenza outbreak(s) or reported Influenza-like Illnesses (ILI) above the baseline (ILI baseline for Alabama is 3.19% for the 2019–2020 season) and lab-confirmed cases (cases are confirmed by culture or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests within the last three weeks) in six or more Public Health Districts. A PCR test is a rapid and sensitive method for detecting the genetic material of influenza viruses and is now the first-choice laboratory test for influenza infection in both humans and animals.

For the Northern District, reports of influenza-like-illnesses saw a mild decrease since the week of Jan. 4, 2020 with the percentage rate dropping from 6.21% to 4.58%. With the most recent data presented for the week of Jan. 25, 2020, the reported percentile rate has increased to 6.43%.

Both public school systems in Cullman County reported no increase in absenteeism due to the flu.

“Cullman City Schools are not currently experiencing a spike in student absences due to flu or illness,” said Cullman City Schools Superintendent Dr. Susan Patterson. “We monitor daily the absence rates looking for spikes in student absence. We are aware that several school systems are having high volumes on absences, so we encourage our parents to take preventative measures to help all students. First and foremost, we ask that no child attend school if they have a fever and (that they) do not return until they have been fever-free for 24 hours without the assistance of medication. Additionally, our custodial staff and school personnel are diligently working to sanitize high-traffic areas and touchpoints.”

Cullman County Schools Superintendent Dr. Shane Barnette echoed Patterson, saying, “Overall, our attendance has been stable. We have been using the Clorox 360 system to clean the schools very well. While it seems that the flu virus is circulating through our county, our schools’ attendance has remained in the mid to high 90s. Good prevention is the key. Students need to remember to wash their hands frequently because good hygiene is so important.”

According to ADPH, influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus. The virus infects the nose, throat and lungs that can cause mild to severe illness, hospitalization and even death.

Anyone can get the flu, as it strikes suddenly and can last for several days.

Symptoms are:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (very tired)
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

According to the ADPH (See web address below), the top 10 things you can do to fight the flu are:

  1. Get vaccinated
  2. Wash your hands
  3. Cover your coughs and sneezes
  4. Stay home with fever
  5. Stockpile supplies
  6. Clean and disinfect
  7. Know your office emergency plan
  8. Learn home care
  9. Call your doctor if symptoms get worse
  10. Stay informed

For more information, visit

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