CADILLAC — This time of year it is not uncommon for kids to get sick and a high percentage of students at multiple buildings within Cadillac Area Public Schools are dealing with either influenza or influenza-like illnesses.
CAPS Superintendent Jennifer Brown said overall the district is above the state threshold for closing due to illness but there are two buildings, Cadillac Junior High School and Franklin Elementary, that have been hit the hardest with illness. Currently, the district as a whole is in the 80% range but the two aforementioned buildings were in the 70% range, according to Brown.
“We can close individual buildings or the entire district but we are not considering that,‘ she said. “Our custodial crews are cleaning nightly and disinfecting. At the elementary schools, we are washing hands with soap and/or using hand sanitizer more frequently.‘
The state of Michigan requires school districts to have 75% attendance district-wide for days to count toward the minimum yearly instruction days. Brown said if a school opts to close due to illness it has to be a four-day window for it to have the desired effect so to lessen the impact on learning; a weekend could be leveraged.
Brown, however, reiterated the district is not looking at closing any buildings or district-wide at this time.
“If parents have concerns about the health of their child, we always encourage them to consult their family physician,‘ she said.
According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ weekly influenza surveillance report for the week ending Jan. 11, influenza activity was considered widespread in Michigan. What that designation means is outbreaks of influenza or increases in influenza-like illness cases and recent laboratory-confirmed influenza in at least half the regions of the state with recent laboratory evidence of influenza in the state.
Munson Healthcare Cadillac Hospital Vice President of Medical Affairs Dr. Joe Santangelo said there is definitely flu activity in the area and actually more than what typically happens this time of year. While there are several strains of the influenza virus they are typically broken into two categories, Influenza A or Influenza B.
In general, Santangelo said cases of Influenza A happen early in the season while Influenza B cases occur later in the season. This year, however, Santangelo said cases of influenza B are occurring at a higher rate than normal for this time of year.
“We have not yet peaked and we are seeing (Influenza B) numbers going up,‘ he said. “That either means we could have a shorter than normal season or it could be a long, tough flu season. Unfortunately, I don’t have my crystal ball.‘
Earlier this month, Spectrum Health announced it is only allowing healthy visitors to visit patients in its hospitals or outpatient locations, including in Reed City and Big Rapids. Michigan is among the hardest-hit states for respiratory illnesses this season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Respiratory illnesses, including RSV, respiratory syncytial virus, can be especially dangerous to the young, frail or elderly.
Although Spectrum Health is limiting visitors, Munson Healthcare Cadillac Hospital did not follow suit and is still not taking a similar stance.