Starting midway through last week and into this week, Ketchikan schools have had a larger than usual number of students out sick. Houghtling Elementary was hit the hardest. Earlier this week, it had about 70 students out sick. Tongass School of Arts and Sciences had the second-highest number of absences.
Becky King, second-grade teacher at Ketchikan Charter School, brought up the issue during public comment at Wednesday’s Ketchikan School Board meeting.
“I’m concerned about all the kids and all the teachers and their health in the district. Especially right now when most of the kids are out with 102/103 fevers achy and headache, which is what’s going around right now. Just the other day with had 25 kids out with this particular sickness.”
District nurse Bailey Webb says additional symptoms include sore throat, vomiting and diarrhea. State health officials told her the symptoms seem like a virus.
“We can’t specifically say what type of virus right now, because not enough children have gone into see their doctors.”
Webb said not knowing what it is makes it difficult to know where it came from, but she has suspicions.
“We had the cruise ships and the carnival all here at the same for the first week.”
Custodial efforts have been focused on disinfecting areas that get lots of hand contact, including doorknobs and desks. Nurse Webb says hand sanitizer is passed around during lunch, and there is a push to wash hands. She says parents can help, as well.
“If their kids are feeling sick were encouraging them please keep them home. They really need to be symptom-free for 24 hours before returning to school.”
She said the state Section of Epidemiology and Public Health Nursing is closely monitoring the number of absent students in Ketchikan, and will be keeping an eye out for anything similar on nearby islands, but so far it seems to be an isolated illness.