The John Witherspoon Middle School in Princeton has been reeling from a spate of influenza-like illnesses that has kept about 20 percent of the student body at home over the past few days, according to Princeton Public Schools officials.
None of the other schools in the Princeton district seem to have been hit as hard as the middle school, and have not reported high rates of illnesses or absenteeism, Superintendent of Schools Steve Cochrane said.
“In situations like the one we are experiencing at the John Witherspoon Middle School, the New Jersey Department of Health does not recommend school closures, but it does ask us to work with our local Health Department on a plan of action,” Cochrane said.
School district officials have begun a comprehensive disinfection program at the direction of Princeton Health Officer Jeff Grossere, Cochrane said. Custodians have been using hospital-grade disinfectant to wipe down handrails, door knobs, bathroom fixtures and keyboards in an effort to keep the illness from spreading.
Cochrane suggested that parents should keep their child at home if he or she has a sore throat, fatigue and muscle aches.
Children who are ill should remain at home until they are fever-free for at least 24 hours, without the help of fever-reducing medication, Cochrane said. It is important to wash one’s hands frequently, and especially before eating, he said.
High levels of influenza-like illnesses have been reported in New Jersey, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The flu virus is spread by tiny droplets that spread when people who are sick cough, sneeze or talk. People may also pick up the flu by touching a surface that has been touched by someone with the flu.
Flu is most contagious during the first three or four days after the illness begins, the New Jersey Department of Health said. Sometimes, adults are able to infect others even before their own symptoms appear, and they can continue to infect others up to 5 or 7 days after becoming ill.
The New Jersey Department of Health recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months should get a flu shot, which will help to prevent its spread.
Although it is possible to get the flu even after having been given a flu shot, the illness may be milder as a result of the flu vaccine.