As schools let out for the Christmas break and families visit loved ones near and far, children may be spreading more than just holiday cheer.
An increase in reports of flu and norovirus in schools underscores the importance of preventing the spread of illness this holiday season. Additionally, itâ€™s not too late to get vaccinated against the flu. The circulating strains of flu are a good match to those included in this yearâ€™s vaccine.
â€œOver the past three weeks, the number of flu outbreaks reported each week increased from two to 28, and norovirus outbreaks went from three to 11,â€ said Acting State Health Commissioner Maureen E. Dempsey, MD, FAAP. â€œThe majority of those were in school settings. With so much illness circulating, itâ€™s important that we all do our part to help prevent the spread of disease and to protect those who are most vulnerable to serious complications.â€
Although anyone can get sick from flu or norovirus, certain people — particularly those with other health conditions or who are in frail health — are more vulnerable to complications that can lead to hospitalization or even death.
Halting the spread
The Virginia Department of Health urges everyone to take the following precautions to prevent the spread of illness:
- Stay home when sick. Stay home if you or your child has a fever. You should be fever free, without the use of fever reducing-medicines (like Tylenol), before you return to school or work.
- Cover your cough.
- Wash your hands often and thoroughly.
- If you are sick, do not visit loved ones in the hospital, nursing home or any other facility housing those in frail health.
- If you go to a doctor for a respiratory illness, be sure to cover your cough and wash your hands. You can use a tissue to cover your cough and then dispose of it in a trashcan and wash your hands — each time. You might be asked to wait in a separate area and/or to wear a mask in the waiting room.
â€œNo one likes getting sick, but for those people at higher risk for complications it can be very serious and even life threatening,â€ said Dr. Dempsey. â€œBy staying home when you are are sick, keeping sick children home, covering your cough and washing your hands frequently, you are helping other people stay well and out of the hospital during the holidays.â€