More than half of students absent after illness outbreak at Rogers Park Elementary
More than half of the students at an Anchorage elementary school were absent Wednesday after a spreading illness that state officials say is looking like is largely driven by Influenza Type B.
According to an email from Alan Brown, a spokesperson for the school district, 269 of the 506 students enrolled at Rogers Park Elementary were absent Wednesday, along with 13 staff members. Four of those staff absences were pre-arranged.
On Tuesday, 238 of the 506 students were absent and 14 staff. That's up from 160 students absent Monday and 12 staff.
However, Brown notes that the school hasn't determined whether all of the absences are caused directly by the illness or by students staying home due to a fear of contracting the illness.
Symptoms of the illness vary from student to student but can include low-grade fever, achiness, lethargy, stomachache, headache and congestion.
State epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin says staff and students at Rogers Park were offered a survey of symptoms and that many of the symptoms matched those of influenza Type B. Of the small number of survey participants that went to a doctor, 13 tested positive for influenza, and 10 of those were specifically influenza Type B, the other three respondents didn't know, McLaughlin said.
"All of this taken together is a strong indication that the Rogers Park outbreak is driven primarily by Influenza B," McLaughlin said. "That's not to say there aren't other viruses that are contributing," he continued.
Brown, with the school district wrote that staff will conduct "a complete wipe down (Tuesday) night of all the touch surfaces in the school (door knobs, desks, bathroom fixtures, etc.) with a hospital-grade disinfectant," and has provided the school with a "generous" supply of disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer.
Brown says that the rate of absence due to illness has been high throughout the district and that students should stay home if they suspect they are sick.
McLaughlin suggests anyone who is sick stay home from school and work, and if anyone at Thanksgiving gatherings is ill, keep your distance. As always, frequent hand washing can keep sickness at bay, but his biggest piece of advice is to get the flu vaccine.