Flu season and viruses bring attention to stopping infections in school


Katharina Hanna

Students and staff who are sick are urged to stay at home and avoid school to not infect other students.

Sneezes. Sniffles. Runny noses. These cold and flu-like symptoms have bombarded classrooms during the wintertime, infecting the students, staff and our learning environment.

The recent coronavirus outbreak has caused 2,100 deaths so far, mainly in Asian countries. Although the virus has not caused any deaths in the U.S., this outbreak has spread fear among the population. Some protect themselves by wearing masks draped around their mouth and nose, while others even go as far as to cancel international trips. 

Recently, the focus has been on the rapidly spreading coronavirus and we have failed to notice an even bigger threat, influenza. The flu has killed approximately 10,000 Americans since last October, with 211 deaths in California alone, according to the Los Angeles Times. 

Although oftentimes dubbed the “back-to-school” plague, this cold and flu phenomenon in schools is also extremely prevalent during the winter. Because students are in close proximity to each other during school hours, they are more likely to catch a cold. This is why we believe that it’s extremely important for students to stay home if they are feeling sick.  

According to the Longwood Pediatrics website, teenagers catch two to four colds per year. These colds are typically caused by rhinovirus, which is contracted when someone touches a surface that was touched by a contaminated person and then touches their nose or throat. 

Rhinovirus can survive in the air and on surfaces for up to three hours. If a student comes to school sick, they will be contaminating multiple surfaces throughout campus, leaving the school a danger zone for other students. We must keep our school as safe and virus-free as possible for everyone. 

According to the School Network for Absenteeism Prevention website, only 58 percent of girls and 48 percent of boys in middle school and high school report washing their hands after using the restroom. Already a breeding ground for all kinds of germs, students attending school while sick only makes it worse. 

A recent poll by Essity, a British health and hygiene company, reported that seven in 10 parents admit to sending their children to school sick. The top reason they disclosed was the pressure they felt to keep their school attendance high and around 25 percent say their children didn’t want to miss something important in school. However, this fear is spread by invalid assumptions. 

According to the Los Angeles Unified School District’s attendance policy, a student is allowed to be absent for four consecutive days due to illness and can be excused with a simple note from a parent or guardian. Most schoolwork can also be made up once the student returns to school. A plastic trophy labeled ‘perfect attendance’ is not worth the harm a sick students’ attendance might cause. 

Loud coughs and the wrinkling of tissues during class aren’t the only disruptions. Going to school while sick can have a detrimental impact on the rest of the students who deserve to have a pleasant and sickness-free education. As a school, we must aim to prevent the amount of illness that floods our campus. If you are feeling sick, don’t force yourself to come to school. It will only make our school environment a more miserable and unhygienic place to be in.