January 31, 2007 Edition

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Flu season hits Lawrence County

Amanda Thatcher administers a flu shot at the Lawrence County Health Unit in Walnut Ridge on Tuesday afternoon. Flu shots will be available at the health unit through the month of February.
TD Photo ~ Kemberly Roberts.

Amber Adams
Staff Writer

The flu season has officially hit Lawrence County, with area schools reporting large numbers of absences.

Dr. Ted Lancaster, of Lawrence County Family Clinic, said they have seen a lot of influenza in the last couple of weeks.

"People always say they have the flu, but most don't,” he said. “What we're seeing right now is influenza."

Symptoms include chills, high fever, an achy feeling, runny nose, sore throat and cough. Lancaster said anyone with these symptoms should see a doctor within the first 48 hours to begin an anti-flu regimen.

He added that three of the patients seen at the clinic had a flu shot and still contacted it, but that most of them had not received a flu shot.

This is not a minor illness where one or two days of school or work may be missed, Lancaster said. It lasts five to seven days.

Flu shots are still available at the Lawrence County Health Unit, located on Free Street in Walnut Ridge, through the month of February or until they are gone. Cost is $15, unless the patient is covered by Medicaid or Medicare.

The flu is not the only illness to blame for nearly empty classrooms. School officials from four of the five school districts in the county have reported students out with strep throat, bronchitis and a stomach virus as well.

The absentee rate is going back down at area schools, officials said, with last week seeming to have been the worst.

Elementary school students have been the first ones affected and have so far missed more school than older students. Hoxie School had 30 kindergarteners out one day last week, while Black Rock was missing 50 percent of their kindergarten class on Monday.

Deb McEntire, administrative assistant at Walnut Ridge School, said there have been an average of 44 students absent at WRES this week, down from last week when over 80 students were out sick.

Walnut Ridge Middle School is close to the same as last week with 22 absent, and the numbers at the high school are up this week from 22 to 45.

"It seems that we are back on the mend," said Mitch Walton, high school principal at Sloan-Hendrix. "Hopefully, attendance will continue to go back up this week." He added that they had several students out all of last week on doctor's orders.

Imboden Area Charter School had 22 percent of their students out on Monday, the highest so far.

Hillcrest is the only school district that has not yet been hit, but Supt. Greg Crabtree said he knows their time is coming, especially with the ongoing Lawrence County Tournament.

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