By: Alivia Melius
Prepare face masks and hand sanitizer when visiting the Saxton area this week. Breakouts of Influenza A and especially B struck Tussey Mountain High School. A total of 131 out of 563 students in the middle school and high school were absent from school on Jan. 16.
Dozens of students at Tussey missed school that week with many leaving school throughout the day. Nurse Jennifer Akers saw approximately 50 students on Jan. 16., in comparison to the typical 30 students she tends to. With an average class size of about 70 students this is significant. “It’s been a little bit busier in the nurse’s office,” Akers said.
One of the several students impacted by the spread of illness was junior Samantha Seace. “I experienced a high fever, chills, and I couldn’t even speak for two days,” Seace said. The Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) held their annual auditions for District 5 Chorus from Jan. 16 to Jan. 18. “[Due to getting the flu,] my district choir audition went horribly,” Seace said. “I couldn’t sing properly, so unfortunately I didn’t move on. I felt physically awful the next day, so I went home early.”
The number of students absent from school significantly affected class curriculums with many students scrambling to finish assignments during the end of the first half of the school year. “Since I teach seniors, I often treat my classes as if they are college-level courses and want students to be aware that a college professor will not just cancel a class due to students being absent,” senior English teacher Bree McCahan said. “However, with the marking period coming to a close, many students were plagued with the flu and missed many assignments during their absence. In fact, the flu wiped out half of my homeroom this past week, and I have never had that happen before. As a teacher, the last minute missing assignments that were turned in affected me because as the students were struggling to meet the impending deadlines, I, too, was also struggling to find time to grade all of the assignments before the marking period window closed.”
For students going to college and even the workfield, it can be helpful to know the correct ways to communicate with future professors or bosses when missing class or work due to sickness. “Learning how to send a professional email is an integral life lesson that will help students be successful at the collegiate level and will even benefit them in the next phase of their life after high school,” McCahan said. “With advancing technology and our fast-paced, busy world, sending a professional email has become a standard and effective means of communicating.” McCahan suggests students should contact their teachers via email when they are absent that includes an appropriate subject and greeting, a brief explanation on why they did not go to class, and students should politely ask each teacher what they missed.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC), Influenza B/Victoria is circulating rapidly throughout the country and unusually early in the typical flu season. The effectiveness of this year’s flu vaccine is unknown at this time for the B/Victoria strain considering this strain generally populates towards the end of the season. Pennsylvania is ranked at a very high risk for this virus along with several other states along the East Coast, West Coast and southern Midwest United States. The CDC reported that the 2019-2020 season is projected to leave an impact as severe as the 2017-2018 season, the deadliest in at least a decade.
Staying safe during the flu season can be very beneficial to anyone, even if they are not a student or teacher. “[You can improve your wellness] by keeping yourself healthy with good nutrition, exercise, washing your hands, and making sure you’re covering your mouth when you cough so that you’re not coming into contact with any of those flu germs that can make you sick,” Akers said. Despite great efforts to fight the flu, some may become plagued anyway. Akers said students should stay home until their fever is cleared for at least 24 hours or until their doctor advises. “I recommend [taking] cold medicine, but for me, cough drops didn’t help my throat either,” Seace added. “Hot or cold things made me feel better; a hot shower or hot tea. Popsicles and ice cubes helped me as well.” Getting lots of rest will strengthen the immune system and help students get back on their feet and on schedule again.