Virus wreaks havoc in schools

01:43, Jan 31 2009

The flu virus is walloping Canterbury students with up to half of pupils off sick in some schools.

Flu rates have peaked in Canterbury, according to latest Community and Public Health data.

Last week there were about 120 cases of flu per 100,000 Cantabrians, slightly higher than the national average of about 110 cases per 100,000.

School principals say that for the past month or so the virus has wreaked havoc in classrooms, affecting both students and teachers.

Aranui Primary School principal Chris Nord said some pupils had been off school for up to three weeks.

They had had the flu and, on returning to school with weak immune systems, had caught a stomach bug also circulating. Recently 12 students from a class of about 25 were away.


Earlier this week the school could not get enough relief teachers to cover ill staff so had to share the students between teachers, Nord said.

Christchurch Girls High School attendance officer Barbara Anderson said that for six weeks class numbers had been down by about 10 per cent.

Most students were absent because of the flu. Large numbers of staff had also been away.

Shirley Intermediate principal Geoff Siave said about 15 of 300 students were away yesterday with the flu.

The school had escaped the full effect of the virus, he said.

CDHB virologist Lance Jennings said the influenza B strain, which commonly affected young people and caused high absenteeism, had been circulating in Canterbury. "You will feel like you have been hit by a bus."

Infections had peaked in the past two weeks but would hopefully soon ease, he said.

Medication was available to treat the influenza B virus but had to be taken within 48 hours of infection, he said.


The Press