Schools combat spread of flu

020518...R DISINFECT 1..Warren...02-05-18...Warren City Schools maintenance employee Dennis Stienstra of Warren disinfects the library at Lincoln PK-8 School Monday R. Michael Semple

WARREN — Warren City School District maintenance workers spent Monday disinfecting all of its buildings to combat the flu epidemic spreading across the area and the country.

Students had the day off because of a previously scheduled professional day for teachers and staff. Superintendent Steve Chiaro said he decided to take advantage of the empty buildings to have schools sanitized with an electrostatic spraying system.

The school district started using its E-Mist system this school year and disinfects all areas of the district at least twice a week. The saline and water solution, which is made in the district, immediately bonds to the surfaces it touches, Chiaro said.

“Last week, we had 20 reported cases of influenza in our Pre-K through eighth grade buildings, including 16 students and four teachers,” Chiaro said. “Until this point, the number of reported cases were in the low single digits.”

Randee Shoenberger, a registered nurse with the Trumbull County Combined Health District, said the number of visits to area hospitals for people with flu-like symptoms this year are running ahead of 2017 numbers.

“There were 86 hospital visits for flu-related symptoms in January,” Shoenberger said. There were 63 flu-related hospital visits in January 2017, according to county records.

The flu season is from December through March.

A federal government report issued last week noted one of every 14 doctor visits and clinics across the country were for fever, cough and other flu-related symptoms, which is the highest level since the 2009 swine flu pandemic. High patient traffic to area hospitals were reported in 42 states.

This year’s high hospitalization rates have surged to surpass the 2014-15 winter season.

Shoenberger said there has been concern about the effectiveness of the influenza A flu vaccine, because it reportedly is only 30 percent effective.

“People should get flu shots once a year,” Shoenberger said. “Even if a particular vaccine is not considered as effective, having an annual flu shot helps to build immunity.”

Warren Deputy Health Commissioner Robert Pinti said it is much easier to get the flu vaccine today than it was during the 2009 flu pandemic.

“People can get flu shots by going to their neighborhood drug and grocery stores,” he said. “In 2009,the vaccine was not as widely available.”

Pinti applauded the school district for its pro-active approach of disinfecting its buildings.

“Other organizations with a high number of people interacting also should do things to make sure their employees and the public are safe,” Pinti said.

The best preventive measure is using common sense techniques, including people not going to work or school sick, people covering their faces when the cough or sneeze, regular hand washing, and wiping off door knob and table which are touched by multiple people, Pinti said.