An uptick in flu activity may be causing a bump in school absences.
Teton County School District No. 1 sent out an email to families last week saying that nursing staff have seen “an increase in the number of confirmed flu cases in Teton County and Teton County schools. Please be aware of this and do not send your students to school if they are sick. If you suspect that your child has the flu, please see your primary care provider.”
On Jan. 21 alone, Jackson Hole Middle School had 146 student absences. However, that was the Monday of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend.
“That we do know was for a whole variety of reasons,” information coordinator Charlotte Reynolds said. “Folks traveling over the long weekend, etc.”
Yesterday, the number was approximately 70 — still higher than normal, which is 45 to 50 absences per day.
While it’s likely the uptick is due to the flu, it’s impossible to know for sure.
“Some are due to illness, and others, we don’t know,” Reynolds said. “It depends on what parents tell us. We do know that some parents have contacted the school and have said, ‘My child has the flu,’ but a lot of families just call and say, ‘My child is not coming to school.’”
The Wyoming Department of Health releases a weekly influenza and influenza-like activity report during flu season. The most recent report was updated Jan. 18 and showed Wyoming reporting “widespread activity” that week, with health care providers reporting 304 influenza cases. Teton County’s weekly case rate was between 26 and 50 per 100,000 people.
It’s important to read the numbers with caution for a variety of reasons.
“The numbers in the reports do not represent a complete count of actual illnesses,” a statement on the health department’s website reads. “These reports are part of an overall surveillance system that functions in an interdependent manner. The true levels of influenza and influenza-like illnesses are likely higher. Although influenza is a reportable disease in the State of Wyoming, not all healthcare providers report these results. Additionally, many ill individuals do not seek medical attention. Of those who do, many are not tested for influenza. Also, not every medical provider reports to the Wyoming Department of Health consistently in the same manner. Therefore, comparing reported cases of influenza from season to season or week to week may not be valid, because many factors influence both testing and reporting.”