Lowcountry school districts report higher absentee numbers as flu cases rise

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Lowcountry doctors are seeing an increase in patients, and schools are seeing an increase in absences.

For the month of January, all the Roper St. Francis hospitals and physicians saw 2,660 cases of the flu. Trident Health saw 677 flu patients during the month.

With the high flu numbers, it's leaving a lot of empty chairs in our local schools.

"Over the last week we have we have definitely seen an increase in flu," said Dr. Eliza Varadi with Pelican Pediatrics. "A lot of schools have said they have kids with the flu."

Nearlly all Lowcountry school districts reported higher absentee numbers.

In the Berkeley County School District, officials said three schools have notified DHEC for the sudden increase in flu-like illness: Daniel Island School, Boulder Bluff Elementary and Philip Simmons Middle School.

There's not just a shortage of kids, the flu season has brought a multitude of shortages.

"For a short period of time certain careers did run out of flu tests," Varardi said.

Other doctors in the area say they've also experienced both masks and flu kits on back order, and a lack of Tamiflu.

"There's definitely a Tamiflu shortage," Varardi said. "Liquid Tamiflu is most commonly used in kids, and there's definitely a shortage of that. We have to call many pharmacies downtown when we need it for a child."

However, Varardi said your child may not always need Tamiflu. She said it depends on each person individually.

"If your child has risk factors such as asthma, any respiratory problems, they are higher risk and more likely need to be seen and need to be checked," Varardi said."Also, you want to make sure that happens in the first 48 hours of illness."

Varardi said it's important to call your child's doctor if they start developing symptoms of the flu which typically include high fever, body aches, and sometimes a cough.

Varardi said your doctor can tell you, based on your child's history, symptoms, and age, if you would need to go to the doctor and be tested.

When it comes to one child in your home getting sick and spreading it to the rest of the family, she said it could happen.

"It doesn't necessarily mean that but there's definitely a higher likelihood," said Varardi. "Does that mean all the other kids need to be on Tamiflu? No. Tamiflu is used on a case by case base and the best way to find out is to ask your doctor."

Varardi said she's seen a lot of patients over the last few weeks, and sometimes those patients are there for preemptive reasons.

"I've had multiple patients today who came with or without symptoms and said, 'Well his friend at school has it. Should he be checked?'" said Varardi. "My suggestion is, if your child is healthy and your child is not sick don't drag them to the doctor's office or an urgent care because more likely than not if they're not sick yet, they will get sick."

Lowcountry school districts are taking measures on sight to stop the spread of the disease so your family doesn't have to worry about getting checked.

BCSD said their custodial crews are working to ventilate and disinfect the school as much as possible, even when students aren't at school.

CCSD said their custodial staff is fogging schoools and specific classrooms, either by machines or aerosol cans, with a nontoxic cleaning solution to stop the spread of germs.

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