UTAH (ABC4) — The holidays are here, and that means flu season is too. Utah hospitals and schools are starting to feel the effects of an increase in different illnesses among young children.
The Box Elder School District is one that is seeing an uptick in absences. According to the district, this is happening at higher rates in elementary schools with around 20 to 25 percent of students out sick.
Hybrid learning in which students spend time online in class is now a thing of the past. Students who miss class will be allowed to make up their work when they return. However, the changes to learning made during the pandemic may have a positive impact on how students stay up to date on their work while home sick.
“We’re back to pre-pandemic [numbers],” said Lane Findlay, Weber School District Community Relations Specialist. While some districts are already seeing an increase in student absences, the Weber School District has not. However, if that changes, students will have an extra tool to help them.
“There was a lot of good that came out of it because it made us grow as a district,” Findlay said, referring to the changes the district made to learning during the pandemic.
Students who are ill can use a website called Canvas to keep on their assignments. This is not the hybrid learning previously mentioned. Rather, it’s a website teachers use to upload class schedules, assignments and important dates. Students who miss class can use the website to access the assignments they miss while gone. However, they are not necessarily required to complete those assignments prior to returning. Teachers will work with them when they return to class.
Ogden School District follows a similar model.
“We are seeing a big increase in the number of viruses out among the community,” Jami Cottle stated. “We’re seeing a big increase in flu. COVID is still out there – RSV, croup, different respiratory illnesses.”
Brigham City Community Hospital’s Chief Nursing Officer Jami Cottle said hospitals are starting to get very busy.
“We’re seeing a lot of these in children,” she said. “They’re back to school. They’re attending family gatherings. People are getting together, so we don’t have the immunity built up that we’ve had in the past. A lot of sick kiddos that are struggling with these different viruses.”
The Bear River Health Department is seeing these types of illnesses increase across the three counties it covers. As this happens, health officials urge Utahns to do what they can to help keep children and their parents healthy.
“It’s the same things it’s been for the last two years: Just make sure you’re washing your hands, make sure you’re taking care of yourself and make sure you’re paying attention to those around you,” said Tanner Burnside, an infection preventionist for the health department.
Burnside encouraged parents to teach their kids to sing their ABCs twice while washing their hands, to regularly disinfect high-traffic areas in the home (especially with kids bringing home germs from school), to throw away tissues after one use, and to keep sick kids home.
“And that’s the best thing that we can do,” he said.
He also encouraged parents to do what they can to keep their children who get sick away from their other children as much as possible and to designate one parent to take care of the child who is ill while the other parent focuses on the other children.
“If your children are having difficulty breathing, if their fever is over 101, make sure you get them into seeing someone so we can take those kids taken care of, we can get them the support they need,” Cottle said. “You know your kids. If they are really not feeling well, if they’re just really lethargic, if they’re not wanting to do their normal activities, if they don’t want to eat or drink, please make sure that you are getting them evaluated.”