HP Bagpipe

HP Bagpipe

HP Bagpipe

Local Illnesses to Increase During Winter Months

School nurses expect more COVID-19 and influenza cases among students.
Photo by Zoie Carlile
Senior Jenny Deng sits surrounded by medical tools in nurses office.

In the midst of flu season, cases of various illnesses have surged, and school nurses are taking extra precautions to help prevent the spread of viruses.

Both COVID-19 and the flu are respiratory diseases that can be spread through sneezing, coughing, and other forms of spreading sickness.

Similarly, the flu and the coronavirus spread most efficiently in cold and dry climates. This foreshadows a heavy resurgence of cases in the months to come.

“[Symptoms] vary but recently, in students and staff, we’ve seen a lot of congestion in the ears, which I feel like is a newer symptom, like they feel [as though] they’re going to pop,” school nurse Mollie Brennan. “I think last year at least, we saw high fevers with flu and more low grade [fevers] with COVID, and then just general fatigue and body aches, coughs, congestion, and headaches.”

Because of the similar symptoms of the flu and COVID-19, Brennan claims that if students or staff aren’t feeling the best, then it’s better to just stay home than to risk other chances of people getting sick.

As the school year progressed and more community-wide events took place, the nurses saw a spike in cases.

“[Cases have] kind of plateaued now, but it did spike after the Howdy Dance. We had a few cases, but now it [is] one or two [kids] a week,” Brennan said.

When it comes to taking precautions with viruses, Brennan thinks the school has some good policies in ensuring students’ safety.

“Casey and I wear masks when students come in not feeling well, just out of precaution, because even if you have a common cold, it’s still contagious, and can turn into other things,” Brennan said. “It’s best if you’re not feeling good with flu or cold-like symptoms to just stay home, get some rest, [especially] if we’re not going to have other precautions like social distancing and wearing masks.”

Although she has concerns about the new cases, school nurse Casey Hurlbutt believes that the school has consistently helped contain the outbreaks, even at the height of the pandemic.

“They did a good job quarantining, and while we did have huge spikes this year and last year, I do feel like it was relatively controlled,” Hurlbutt said.

Even if another pandemic were to happen again Hurlbutt thinks that the school is prepared for it.

“I think we’d be better prepared given that it’s happened before in our lifetime, we haven’t had any pandemics happen in my lifetime, so this is just something completely new,” Hurlbutt said

Medical Physician of Prevention for UT Southwestern and infectious disease specialist Julie Trivedi has also seen a rise in COVID-19 cases since school has gone back into session, and attributes this growth to several reasons.

“The main reason is that there could be a new sub-variant that’s circulating that might be more transmissible, which means that it’s easier to spread,” Trivedi said. “The other [possibility could] be people aren’t immune maybe because they haven’t gotten an updated vaccine, or the last time they had an infection was several months ago, and then the other is just our human behaviors, if we’re gathering indoors [it] gives more opportunities to be exposed to COVID.”

Trivedi believes that another pandemic is certainly possible, but unlikely to make a return on such a large scale.

“Viruses are always changing and mutating, but I think as long as we continue to see the sub-variants of Omicron, we’re going to continue to see these milder symptoms as endemic as opposed to pandemic,” Trivedi said.

In order to prevent a future resurgence of the virus, Trivedi recommends a few key actions to take.

From an immune standpoint, booster vaccines can always help, even if you recently had COVID [we] recommend that people get it,” Trivedi said. “Make wise decisions about wearing a mask in public places if you’re not certain whether individuals might be sick or not, and if you have symptoms make sure you get tested and [don’t] go out in public to expose other people.”

About the Contributor
Ellie Cooper
Ellie Cooper, Reporter
What are you looking forward to on the staff this year? I'm looking forward to creating great stories, promoting the Bagpipe to the school, and overall having a successful year What are your hobbies? Reading, spending time with friends, and yoga What causes are you passionate about? World hunger, poverty, homelessness, and climate change