CELINA — Immaculate Conception Catholic School is back in session today after pupils were sent home Friday as an illness spread through the building.
Preschool was closed Thursday and Friday and kindergarten through sixth-grade pupils were sent home Friday after 53 of the 126 pupils had called in sick and others were getting sick.
Principal Kathy Mescher said the illness appears to have come from outside the school and seems to last a few days.
“We were just the unfortunate location where it showed up,” she said. “It didn’t start here.”
“It’s not an influenza, that’s something we do know,” she said. “Not swine flu or regular flu.”
Mercer County Health Department’s Director of Nursing and Communicable Disease Coordinator Joyce Jansen said the apparent gastrointestinal virus began spreading Sept. 29 when a pupil vomitted on a bus. It spread further on Thursday when pupils vomitted in the school building. She said such a virus usually lasts about 48 hours.
Elementary school pupils have limited interaction for now, Mescher said, staying mostly in the same classroom all day and following common-sense sanitary guidelines like washing hands and coughing into their elbows.
Because preschoolers are less likely to follow hygiene rules, preschool classes have been canceled through Wednesday. Teacher conference days on Thursday and Friday mean no school for all pupils those days.
Jansen said that while this wasn’t a flu outbreak, the county is beginning to see more cases.
“It’s widespread in Ohio now and it’s definitely in Mercer County,” she said. While the county is not yet screening for the H1N1 virus, overall flu cases are up.
“What the doctors are seeing is definitely up for this time of year,” she said.
Allen and Auglaize counties are seeing some increase in flu cases as well.
Allen County Health Department Disease Surveillance Coordinator Kim Rieman said the county schools are reporting an increase in illnesses, including the flu. The school monitoring program just began this year, so it’s hard to compare to other years.
Auglaize County Health Commissioner Charlotte Parsons said doctors are reporting a few more cases than normal, but not far off normal flu season numbers.
The Ohio Department of Health reports seasonal flu vaccines are available and swine flu vaccinations should be available to the public by the middle of this month.