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Rockdale schools hit with flu wave
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Rockdale County Public Schools have been hit with a wave students and staff succumbing to influenza and other sicknesses, particularly in its elementary schools, in the last week before students and staff go on their two-week winter break.

On Thursday, Flat Shoals Elementary reported about 10.6 percent of their students were absent and JH House Elementary had 10.2 percent of students absent.

Other elementary schools reported an absentee rate of about 8 to 9 percent on Thursday, according to school system spokesperson Cindy Ball.

"We have been communicating with health department officials who have given guidance on the measures we have taken thus far," wrote Ball. "We have taken the proactive measures as recommended by the health department and have been monitoring the absenteeism rate at these schools. The health department has advised that this is the trend they are seeing in the community as well. "

Preventative measures that schools have been taking include:

- Increased custodial services to ensure buildings are thoroughly disinfected each night with additional surface cleaning during the day

- Principals have sent letters home to parents at each of these schools to let them know of the increase in illness with guidance on preventative measures to decrease the spread of germs (hand washing and respiratory etiquette) and to notify parents that children who are sick should stay home and not return to school until 24 hours after the fever has gone away.

- Principals have also sent home a phone message using our rapid communication system recapping the letter in case a parent did not receive the letter.

"We hope that the two-week holiday break will allow everyone to get well and return healthy and refreshed for the start of second semester," said Ball.

RCPS students are out for the winter break from Dec. 20 to Jan. 6. Teachers and staff return Jan. 5.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday reported cases were widespread in 29 states last week, especially in the south and midwest regions.

The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older. Vaccination is especially important for people who are at high risk for developing flu-related complications such as young children, pregnant women, people with certain chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart and lung disease, and people age 65 years and older.

Flu vaccines are offered in many locations, including doctor's offices, clinics, health departments, retail stores, and pharmacies.

The Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Departments will offer reduced cost flu vaccines through December 31 at regional clinics including the Newton Health Center and Rockdale Health Center. To find a location near you, go to

Basic healthy habits you can do to protect again the spread of germs, especially during this busy holiday season include:

• Wash hands. Wash hands frequently and carefully with soap and water. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds, or sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice (or maybe Jingle Bells for this time of year). Make sure children and toddlers also wash their hands.

• Avoid touching your face. Keep hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.

• Clean and disinfect surfaces. If a surface or object has been contaminated by someone with the flu it is important to clean and disinfect that surface or object.

• Get enough sleep. If you are run down, you are less likely to be able to fight on infection of any kind.

• Stay home if sick. The CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever has gone. Leave the house only for medical care or to access necessities.