Administrators, nurses proactive against spreading virus


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Enterovirus, a respiratory illness responsible for child illness and mortality, has staff members on high alert at Glen Rock High School, although no local cases have been diagnosed thus far.

by Agatha Blevin, Staff Writer

Fall. Leaves turning brilliant hues of red and gold, the weather turning wonderfully cool, and pumpkin spice everything comes to mind. But, this fall, people have been concerned about a more serious topic, specifically the Enterovirus that has swept across the nation.

There are many strains of Enterovirus and many of them are extremely common. The current strain of the virus, EV-D68, has never been a problem, only showing up in a few rare cases since 1987.  This year has shown a spike in the amount of cases, including 14 laboratory-confirmed cases in NJ.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Enterovirus is spread most commonly by an infected person coughing or sneezing on a surface that is touched by others. The common symptoms of the Enterovirus are similar to that of the flu, but the severe symptoms can include respiratory problems such as wheezing and difficulty breathing.

Glen Rock High School Principal, John Arlotta, has assured the school population that the appropriate staff members “are keeping an eye on things.”

There have been concerns coming from parents, students, and administrators about the spread and consequences of the virus. Just recently, a young boy from Arizona passed away due to complications from the virus and, in this past week, a school in Southampton, NY was closed down due to a student having a confirmed case of the strain of the Enterovirus.

Principal Arlotta said that most of the local fears can be assuaged by the diligent work of the district’s employees. “Our maintenance staff is doing a good job of scrubbing everything down after school and just being vigilant in terms of that,” he said.

Recent illness outbreaks

Glen Rock has experienced a few challenges with students being ill over the past few years.

Last school year, the school dealt with a chicken pox incident. This set up a precedent for dealing with school wide epidemics.

The problem with this new virus, unless we get a culture, you’re not going to know what type of virus you’re looking at.”

— Stephanie Nerney, school nurse

“[We] are really guided by the Bergen County Health Organization and they set up guidelines,” Arlotta said. “Protocol changes when there is an outbreak either locally or within the school, and they’ll set guidelines to determine whether it’s an epidemic.”

He added that “ten would be considered an epidemic” in accordance with the Bergen County Department of Health Services.

Glen Rock High School has been vigilant with its fight against flu and disease in the past.

Middle school nurse Stephanie Nerney said, “When we had the H1N1 outbreak, we were asked to record when there were any cases of the flu and we had to call it in weekly to the County.”

According to Nerney, “The problem with this new virus, unless we get a culture, you’re not going to know what type of virus you’re looking at.”

This issue makes it hard to properly diagnose and record the presence of the illness within the school building.

Nerney said, “With flu season coming, it’s hard to decipher what’s what. Many times, doctors do not have the capability to test cultures for this virus—so they’re only taking cultures if you end up in the hospital and that would be based on symptoms.”

The symptoms of EV-D68 are flu-like, and the disease is not known to be fatal in adults.

Susan Becker, the high school nurse, was not available for comment.

Spreading the word, not the germ

To make sure that information passes freely between the local schools and the BCHO, the high school nurse sends out information to parents and keep everyone informed.

“We get most of our [information] from the State,” said Nerney, who then can pass on information. At a meeting for the district school nurses, there was nothing explicitly stated, but since the news broke of the virus the school has been extremely proactive.

Both Arlotta and Nerney encourage students to take care of themselves and stay healthy.  The CDC suggests washing hands, covering coughs, and avoiding close-contact with those who are ill.

Glen Rock hasn’t seen any students with respiratory ailments this year, but flu season isn’t over yet.

Nerney, however, is cautiously optimistic.

“So far everything has been alright, but that can all change tomorrow,” she said.