ASHTABULA — Parents’ concerns about this season’s influenza outbreak are valid and the district is doing all it can to prevent children from getting sick, Ashtabula Area City Schools Superintendent Mark Potts said.

The Ohio Department of Health reports there have been more than 4,400 hospitalizations due to flu in Ohio during the 2019-2020 flu season, which is typically January through March, but this year the virus got a head start and more people seem to have gotten sick, said Christine Kettunen, nursing director for the Ashtabula County Health Department.

Potts said he commiserates with parents dealing with sick children.

“I am truly sorry for what you are going through,” Potts said. “I understand. I am a parent too.”

Generally, public schools close because of illness when absences reach or exceed 30 percent, Potts said. No public schools in Ashtabula County have closed because of the flu, according to school officials.

Throughout the past two weeks, AACS have seen an increase in the number of students going home ill, but the absences have not exceeded 10 to 11 percent, Potts said.

“It is a little more than normal, but not an epidemic,” he said.

The school district is paying second-shift custodians overtime to disinfect desks, doors, counters and common areas where students may place their hands.

“We did extensive disinfecting over the weekend and plan to continue for as long as is necessary,” he said.

School officials recommend the following guidelines to help keep children healthy:

• Do not send your child to school if they are exhibiting any signs of the flu such as fever, chills, headache, or sore muscles.

• If your child has a fever (temperature greater than 100) please keep them home for 24 hours after the fever is gone and without the use of fever reducing medications.

• Students should all be kept home for 24 hours after vomiting or diarrhea.

“We also encourage frequent hand washing with friction, sneezing or coughing into the inside of their elbow, drinking plenty of clear fluids, adequate nutrition and to get as much rest as possible to keep their immune system as strong as it can be,” Potts said. “We are working to keep the schools as safe from germs as possible.” 

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