ABILENE – With the country in the middle of the flu season, AISD parents will be receiving a note sent home with their children Thursday detailing steps to help prevent the spread of the disease.

Last week, 237 children across the AISD missed school for at least one day with the flu or flu-like symptoms, that’s up from 83 the previous week and a dramatic increase from the final day of the fall semester (Dec. 20) when only 70 students across the district were out with flu symptoms. On the same week last year, only 59 students were out with the flu or flu-like symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the flu is responsible for more than 13 million illnesses this year, 120,000 hospitalizations and 6,600 deaths.

The AISD letter home points out eight things every parent should know about helping stop the spread of germs:

Teach your children to wash their hands often with soap and water.  If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
Teach your children not to share personal items like drinks, food or unwashed utensils.
Teach your children to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when they sneeze or cough.  Throw the tissue in the trash after using.  Remind them to cough or sneeze into the inside of their elbows instead of their hand when a tissue is not available.
Avoid contact with sick people.
Know the signs and symptoms of the flu.  Symptoms of the flu include fever (100°F (37.8°C), cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, and feeling very tired.  Some people may also vomit or have diarrhea.
Keep sick children at home for at least 24 hours after they no longer have fever except to get medical care.  The fever should be gone for at least 24 hours, without the use of a fever-reducing medication, before they return to school.  A fever is defined as 100°F (37.8°C) or higher.  Keeping children with a fever at home will reduce the number of people who may be infected.
Do not send children to school if they are sick.

The AISD is working closely with the Taylor County Health Department and the medical community in Abilene to monitor flu conditions. In addition, AISD custodial staff members have been disinfecting district facilities on nights and weekends by using an EPA approved disinfectant which is used in hospitals, nursing homes, schools and other establishments where controlling cross-contamination from surfaces is of extreme importance. The disinfectant is applied via a misting machine to help ensure exposed surfaces are more completely impacted by the disinfectant.

In addition, public health officials stress that it is very important to get a flu vaccination this year, even though historical data is showing the vaccine has not been as effective this flu season.  While the flu vaccine is far from perfect, it is the best way to prevent getting sick from the flu.   In addition, the flu shot may be of some benefit by lessening the severity of symptoms among those who do get the flu.