Cold, Flu and RSV, Oh my! Schools hit hard with illnesses

Published: Dec. 8, 2022 at 4:47 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 8, 2022 at 4:49 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Hospitals aren’t the only place battling an early and unusual spike in influenza and RSV. Schools are also noticing an increase in absent students. Nurses Dana’s office isn’t empty very often these days. It’s cold and flu season but this year there’s also Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV which is keeping students out of class. Bismarck Public Schools says absences are increasing but their tracking system doesn’t differentiate between sickness and vacation days.

“7.5% of students are absent right now this month. Last year we were at about 6.5% so it’s only a one percent difference but in a district our size, 13,000 students, that’s 130 more students than last year”

Last week North Dakota reported 862 new cases of influenza but add it’s too soon to tell if cases will peak soon. Last year, influenza cases peaked the last week of December, which is still earlier than normal.

“As we get closer to that we can expect more influenza cases to continue throughout the rest of the season. We know that North Dakota has seen influenza activity increasing very rapidly over the last couple of weeks and we can expect that to continue,” said Levi Schlosser, influenza surveillance coordinator for North Dakota Department of Health and Human Services.

Despite a grim outlook for the rest of 2022, BPS staff are working hard to keep students in school.

“Our school nurses go into the classrooms and talk about hand washing. It’s national hand washing month. So, we do that education and then just urge good respiratory etiquette, you know cover your cough, that kind of thing,” said Gartner.

Another way to help stop the spread of viruses is keeping students, or yourself, home if they are feeling ill. The Department of Health says nationally and in North Dakota, cases of RSV are declining as flu cases are increasing.