Doctors and schools urge students to stay home if sick

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SARASOTA - There's growing concern after dozens of students show flu-like symptoms. The Health Department is sending letters home to parents at the Sarasota School of Arts and Sciences, urging them to keep their children home if they're sick.

"The most important thing you can do is stay home if you're ill." This is what the Department of Health, the Sarasota County School Board and Sarasota Memorial Hospital are advising parents of children displaying flu like symptoms.

"Fever, headache, cough, muscle and joint pain, sore throat, runny nose," are some signs to watch out for, according to Dr. Reuben Holland at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

“There were about fifty students reported with flu like symptoms to the health room there on Friday, and I believe about twenty on Monday, and then it was down to three by yesterday," says Scott Ferguson with Sarasota County Schools.

How concerned should you be about this outbreak? "I would certainly be concerned if more than ten people are affected," says Dr. Holland.

Some people, including the immune-compromised and those susceptible to flu may be at risk for more serious infections, says Holland. "A super infection with a bacteria on top of a virus.”

But, most will feel miserable for five to seven days, then feel better. And not all the kids at the school displaying symptoms have the flu. “It’s difficult to tell, because not everyone will report to the health room," says epidemiologist Michael Drennon.

But, because of the numbers, the Department of Health authored a letter sent to parents by the school board providing information to parents. "That lets them know that the number of students reporting to health rooms in their school is a little bit on the high side, so they may want to watch their students for flu-like symptoms at home," says Ferguson.

The letter also gave parents things they can do to prevent their children from becoming ill and what to do if their child becomes ill. And there are ways to better identify if your child may the flu and not a common cold. "What we're looking at is fever greater than 100 degrees, and a cough or sore throat. So while children may have a fever or cough, they may not have both," says Dr. Drennon.

Currently the number of children reporting flu like symptoms at this school is on the decline, this may be due to parents keeping their kids home or the virus running its course. If your child displays symptoms the best thing you can do is keep them home.