Story County, Ames schools see high absences amid respiratory illness – Ames Tribune

Families in Ames are being asked to share their child’s symptoms if they stay home sick from school as a combination of respiratory illnesses affect school attendance across the state.
So far this fall, five schools in Story County have reported absentee rates of 10% or higher to Story County Public Health, said Treasa Ferrari, a nurse. She could not identify when they had the absences at what schools, but cases of colds, strep throat, flu, RSV and COVID-19 have swept through the state, causing high absentee rates and forcing doctor’s offices and urgent cares to move to appointment-only care.
The percentage of Iowa students out sick between Nov. 27 and Dec. 3 was higher than at any point in the past five years, except for during January’s surge of COVID-19 infections from the omicron variant, according to the most recent data from the Iowa Department of Public Health.
More:‘Keep your babies home’ Iowa doctor says as RSV, flu, COVID collide in Iowa’s worst winter for illness in years
Schools in Iowa are required to report to their county health departments any time the absentee rate is 10% or higher because of illness. Thirty-nine schools in Iowa reported illness-related absences reached that level between Nov. 20 and Nov. 26, according to an Iowa Department of Public Health report.
Between Nov. 27 and Dec. 3, that number rose to 54 schools, the department reported.
Ames Middle School reached an absentee rate high enough that the district closed the school the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, said district spokesperson Amy DeLashmutt. Other schools in Ames have not yet reached the reporting threshold, she said.
School officials check the situation daily and sometimes hourly. And “what I have told you today could rapidly change as illness increases,” DeLashmutt said.
She said schools have been cleaning classrooms and reinforcing good handwashing. They also are asking parents to report students’ symptoms so the district can provide up-to-date information to the county health department.
“It is incredibly important for parents, when reporting their student absent from school due to illness, to also report¬†the symptoms that student is experiencing,” DeLashmutt said.
The Iowa Department of Public Health recommends these steps to reduce the spread of these illnesses:
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Phillip Sitter covers education for the Ames Tribune, including Iowa State University and PreK-12 schools in Ames and elsewhere in Story County. Phillip can be reached via email at psitter@gannett.com. He is on Twitter @pslifeisabeauty.

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