PRINCETON — Mercer County parents and guardians were urged Monday to keep children home from school if they are showing signs of influenza or flu-like symptoms.

The Mercer County Board of Education issued a statement assuring parents that the school system understood that there are times when children need to stay home from school. Overall attendance in the school system is checked once a month. Superintendent Deborah Akers said there was a spot check Monday at the county’s schools.

While absences are higher in some schools, the absences in other schools were about the same as they would be any other day, Akers stated.

The school system encourages families to make sure their children attend school regularly, but they are also encouraged to keep their children home if they are sick.

“While attendance has been a priority for Mercer County Schools this year and while we continue to emphasize the importance of our students being in school, we also recognize the need to not attend school if a child has the flu or is exhibiting the symptoms of flu,” according to the board of education. “This announcement is a reminder to parents that when children miss school with flu-like symptoms, parent excuses have been and will continue to be accepted.”

“In an effort to support parents on this issue, Mercer County Schools is suspending all attendance incentives/reward programs through the end of February. We are and will continue to monitor student absences,” according to the school board’s statement.

Many of the county’s schools have incentive programs to encourage attendance, data and communication specialist Teresa Russell, of Mercer County Schools said. The programs were suspended so students who have to stay home because of the flu will not lose out on those benefits.

The Centers for Disease Control recommend that students and faculty members stay home from school if they have the flu or show any flu-like symptoms. This helps control the disease’s spread by reducing the number of people exposed to it.

Reports of flu and flu-like symptoms keep arriving at the Mercer County Health Department. Exact numbers of cases were not available, but reports keep coming in, one nurse said.

“I get reports from different doctors’ offices in the area and it seems to be escalating,” Becky Walker, RN, public health nurse said. “I don’t think people are staying at home when they’re sick. They’re not giving themselves enough time to get well.”

Besides staying home so coworkers won’t get sick, too, Bailey advised taking another simple precaution to check the flu’s spread.

“I think if everybody would wash their hands more frequently, it would decline,” she stated.

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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