Kerrville Independent School District Superintendent Mark Foust sent a letter to the district’s parents on Friday that the school district is maintaining a vigilant eye on the coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 1,000 people worldwide.
There has just been one confirmed case of the virus in Texas and that person is in a quarantined area at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. Foust’s letter said the risk of the virus spreading is low, but urged parents to be vigilant like they would with any other viral illness.
“While a new type of illness can be scary, we can protect our students, teachers, and the broader community by using simple everyday actions that protect people from other types of respiratory viruses,” Foust wrote in the letter to parents. “Our teachers, school nurses, and staff are working carefully to encourage these simple and effective habits of frequent handwashing, covering every cough or sneeze, and cleaning classroom tables/surfaces frequently. This is important not just to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, but to help prevent the spread of other infections that can lead to student illness and absences.”
The letter also included tips to parents about hygiene and other ways to prevent the illness. Kerr County has been hit particularly hard by the flu this season and state health officials said two strains of flu have been reported here.
In fact, the flu has been wreaking havoc across the nation, according to The Associated Press.
The number of child deaths and the hospitalization rate for youngsters are the highest seen at this point in any season since the severe flu outbreak of 2009-10, health officials said Friday. And the wave is expected to keep going for weeks.
Experts say it is potentially a bad time for an extended flu season, given concerns about the new coronavirus out of China, which can cause symptoms that can be difficult to distinguish from flu without testing.
If coronavirus were to begin spreading in the U.S., there could be confusion about whether people are getting sick with it or the flu, said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious-diseases expert at Vanderbilt University.
This flu season got off to its earliest start in 15 years, with surges of flu-like illnesses seen in parts of the South as early as October. Most cases were caused by a type of flu that usually causes substantial infections only in the spring, at the tail end of the flu season.
That wave peaked in late December and dropped steadily for weeks afterward.
But a second surge began in late January. Last week saw another rise in the percentage of doctor's office visits that were due to flu-like illness, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
"We have not yet peaked for influenza. We are still on our way up,” Dr. David Weber, a University of North Carolina infectious-diseases specialist, said of the patient traffic in Chapel Hill.
Overall, the CDC estimated that 26 million Americans have gotten sick with flu this past fall and winter, with about 250,000 flu-related hospitalizations and around 14,000 deaths.