81 students sent home from Cape Central High School with flu-like symptoms
Wednesday, February 15, 2012 ~ Updated 8:38 PM
By Erin Ragan ~ Southeast Missourian
Cape Girardeau Central High School sent students with flu-like symptoms home en masse Wednesday.
Principal Dr. Mike Cowan said 81 students and five teachers were sent home, many with temperatures and reporting feelings of listlessness. The number of students out Wednesday at the high school was 158, including the 81 sent home by school nurses. There are 1,150 students enrolled at the high school.
Cowan was in a principal's meeting Wednesday afternoon and said principals in other buildings in the district weren't aware of or didn't experience similar sickness in their schools.
Nurses at the high school had received one confirmation from a student's doctor which stated the student has seasonal Type A influenza.
"This is unusual," Cowan said, adding that he could not recall a time in his 11 years as principal when so many students were out or sent home in one day for being sick.
Custodians were working to sanitize the building Wednesday night by wiping down surfaces like desks and doors, Cowan said.
Shirley Renaud, who does communicable disease surveillance at the Cape Girardeau County Health Department, said she received two reports of confirmed influenza Type A Wednesday. No further reports had been received by the county health department as of Wednesday night.
Cape Girardeau pediatrician Dr. Gary Olson said after he and his staff had three children test positive for influenza Type A Wednesday, he would be willing to put money on that most of the cases at the high school are in fact the flu.
Olson said a 14-year-old patient that tested positive had a temperature of 102 degrees and that all the children were reported to be feeling fine Tuesday night but sick Wednesday morning.
"They did have a flu shot, and that makes me a little nervous," Olson said. There is a chance that because it is so late in the normal flu season that a strain of influenza could have mutated from the strains covered by flu shots and is now causing an outbreak.
Symptoms of influenza Type A include cough, high fever, muscle aches, sore throat and weakness.
Olson said more cases need to be confirmed to determine if the illness is actually the flu.
Through the week ending Saturday, there were no reported cases of influenza Type A in Cape Girardeau County, but a report earlier this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed Missouri was experiencing an increase in the number of influenza cases in the last three weeks.
Emily Sikes, spokeswoman for Saint Francis Medical Center, said there was no influx of patients Wednesday with flu symptoms in either the hospital's emergency room or the hospital's Doctor's Express clinic. Several high school students did visit Immediate Convenient Care but tested negative for influenza, she said.
Olson said a few days off that the Cape Girardeau School District already had scheduled for Friday through Tuesday due to parent/teacher conferences, Presidents Day and a professional development day may help stop the spread of illness at the high school. http://www.semissourian.com/story/1816154.html