The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 16, 2013

Flu picking up momentum in Mankato schools this week

By Amanda Dyslin
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — The flu has picked up some momentum in Mankato Area Public Schools but nothing alarming, school nurses said

Various schools in the district — including Dakota Meadows Middle School and Eagle Lake, Garfield, Kennedy, Hoover, Bridges and Roosevelt elementaries — have reported flu absence numbers to the state, said Kim Peterson, a licensed social worker and nurse at Mankato East High School.

A school has to report to the Minnesota Department of Health when more than 5 percent of its population is reporting a temperature of 100 or higher in addition to a cough or sore throat, she said. Also, if more than three students are absent from an elementary school classroom with those symptoms, the school also reports those numbers to the state.

“But (they are) not big numbers and certainly not what we saw three years ago,” Peterson said. “We’ve got a lot of colds and upset stomachs and that kind of stuff.”

Last week, only Roosevelt reported to the state from the Mankato district. The other schools reported this week. (Once a school’s flu numbers have been reported, they do not have to be updated with the state.)

Peterson said she didn’t know exact percentages of flu-related student absences because absences can be due to a variety of reasons and illnesses, including colds.

Terri Helland, a licensed school nurse based at West High School, said absences due to unknown reasons are counted toward the flu totals just to be safe.

School staff have been working hard to educate students on hand-washing and ways to prevent the spread of illness, the nurses said.

“Maybe it’s a good thing that these children are staying home,” Helland said. “If you are sick, stay home.”