AUSTINTOWN - After news that several children died from flu-related complications in counties neighboring Mahoning County, crews in Austintown schools spent Friday sanitizing surfaces that could retain the virus.
"We are making sure crews are cleaning the things that might not get cleaned during regular janitorial work - like door knobs, desks, pencil sharpeners, light switches," said Austintown Superintendent Vince Colaluca. "We have the utmost sympathy for the families in Columbiana who have lost children."
A 6-year-old boy from Salem and a 7-year-old boy from East Liverpool died earlier this month.
Special to the Town Crier / R. Michael Semple
Austintown Elementary School head custodian Tracy Parker disinfects a keyboard in the computer lab at the school Friday. The district decided to have a disinfecting day, since the students had no school, to help prevent the spread of the flu.
This season seems to be worse than last, said Trumbull County Health Department epidemiologist Randee Shoenberger.
The majority of people who die from the flu usually have another ailment that the flu can complicate and lead to death, Shoenberger said. The elderly and others who have an underlying heart or respiratory disease are more at risk, she said.
Mahoning County comes in behind only Cuyahoga County for the most flu-related hospitalizations in the state for this flu season so far - between October and Feb. 11, according to data from the Ohio Department of Health.
There have been 239 hospitalizations in Mahoning County, 9 percent of the total in Ohio. There were 148 in Trumbull County - 5.6 percent of hospitalizations in the state.
To ensure children, especially at the elementary school, are protected, Colaluca said, teachers have been reviewing hand washing protocol and encouraging regular use of hand sanitizer.
The cleaning was done Friday, because the day was already a planned day off for students, Colaluca said. A special cleansing formula is being used that will be able to dry over the long holiday weekend.
Flu shots are free with most insurance, and people in Mahoning County can still get one. The district has administered 1,600 shots this season. The shots are given by appointment at the Trumbull County Health District and those interested are asked to call 330-675-2590.
To avoid the flu, the nursing division at the Mahoning County Health District recommends avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth; washing your hands regularly with soap and water or sanitizer when soap isn't available; covering coughs with tissues or other material; and keeping your body healthy with a balanced diet, exercise, drinking water, exercising and resting.
Those who are feeling sick should drink plenty of clear liquids, avoid school and work for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone, and seek medical attention if they have an underlying medical condition.