BRIDGMAN — The Bridgman schools closed and cancelled after-school activities from Thursday evening, Jan. 30, through 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 2, due to a high number of students with “influenza like illness,” Superintendent Shane Peters said.
He said district officials started noticing a high number of absences at the district’s three school buildings, starting Monday, and they have been working with officials from the Berrien County Health Department all week.
“We’ve had 50 to 75 students absent per building ... and we just did not see any breaks,” he said. “We’ve had a great partnership with the health department. They gave us great advice.”
Peters said school staff has been disinfecting desks and door knobs in the buildings all week, but the number of students calling in sick has stayed steady.
“We’re hoping that these three days will give us a reprieve,” he said. “It will allow those who are still sick time to get healthy, those who are rebounding from illness time to rest, and those who have not been sick to remain that way.”
Even away sports events have been cancelled (including Jan. 31 boys basketball games in Buchanan).
“We sure don’t want our kids to take (the virus) to another district,” Peters said.
The Bees did play at Eau Claire on Monday, Feb. 3 (see report in Sports section of this website).
Gillian Conrad with the Berrien County Health Department said Bridgman isn’t the only school district where students are falling ill, although so far that district has been hit the hardest.
“There’s a lot of yucky stuff going around,” she said. “It’s that time of the year.”
Conrad said they are seeing a combination of upper respiratory illnesses and the stomach bug at schools, daycare centers and nursing homes.
One of the biggest problems is when people go to work or school when they are sick.
“By not taking time off when you’re sick, you’re not only not getting the rest you need so you can heal, but you’re spreading the germs to other people,” she said.
Conrad said the best way to avoid getting sick is to wash your hands regularly with hot water and soap. She said hand sanitizer helps, but hot water and soap are better.
Conrad said it’s also important to disinfect hard surfaces such as door knobs and tables. She said the norovirus that causes what many people call the stomach flu can live on hard surfaces for up to 10 days. She said the bugs that cause respiratory illnesses usually can’t live on hard surfaces. Instead, they are spread by close contact when someone sneezes.
“Bottom line – wash your hands, stay home when you are sick and disinfect common areas,” she said.