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April 23, 2014

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5 most common communicable diseases reported in Clark County schools

Even though they are often seen as incubators of communicable diseases, schools can play a profound role in maintaining public health.

Before a child can enroll in school, parents must vaccinate them for a number of infectious diseases. From a young age, schoolchildren are taught to be vigilant about washing their hands. In later grades, students are required to take gym and health classes to learn about healthy living.

Although school nurses cannot officially diagnose student illnesses, they are able to attend to first-aid emergencies and identify suspected causes of many symptoms and act accordingly.

Students suspected of displaying symptoms of communicable diseases are immediately sent home, said Diana Taylor, director of the Clark County School District's health services, which can be reached at 702-799-7443.

Besides the common cold and the flu, which are prevalent in schools, here are the five most common communicable diseases reported by school nurses in Las Vegas:

    • Pinkeye

      Conjunctivitis, or "pinkeye," is an inflammation of the eye usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection, or an allergic reaction. It is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact.



      Symptoms

      • Redness around the eye and lower eyelid

      • Painful itching, or burning sensation around the eye

      • Tearing or a watery discharge that can crust over

      • Sensitivity to light



      Treatment

      If pinkeye is suspected, children are sent home immediately and urged to see a health care provider to be diagnosed.

      Depending on whether the pinkeye is caused by a bacteria, virus or an allergy, the doctor or nurse practitioner will recommend an over-the-counter or prescription-strength eye drop. Visine will reduce redness but not treat pinkeye.

      Students may return to school 24 hours after starting the treatment, which could last a week to 10 days. If the inflammation is related to allergies, a doctor's note may be required.

      Affected children are not to rub their eyes. A cool compress can sooth eye irritation. Diligent hand-washing also is advised.

      For more information, visit the Southern Nevada Health District website.

    • Ringworm

      Dermatophytosis, or ringworm, is a skin infection caused by a fungus. Ringworm of the feet is more commonly known as athlete's foot, and ringworm of the groin is more commonly known as jock itch. Ringworm is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact with people or animals infected with ringworm. Objects, such as floors and gyms, also can transmit the fungus.



      Symptoms

      • Red, circular rashes that have raised edges and a white patch inside. The rash often looks like a ring.

      • Itchy and flaky skin

      • Rashes can leave bald spots on the scalp and cracked skin between the toes.



      Treatment

      If ringworm is suspected, the rash is covered and children are sent home immediately. Parents are urged to take their children to a health care provider.

      There are over-the-counter medications to treat ringworm. Treatments usually are topical – creams that can be rubbed on the skin. Parents are advised not to use strong chemicals that were not intended to treat ringworm.

      Students may return to school 24 hours after starting the treatment, which usually takes a couple of weeks. Parents are expected to demonstrate evidence that treatment has begun.

      Affected children should not share clothing and other personal items with others. They also should avoid going to common areas, such as pools and playgrounds, until the ringworm is being treated. Parents are urged to clean the house with disinfectant.

      For more information, visit the Southern Nevada Health District website.

    • Chickenpox

      Chickenpox is a skin infection caused by the varicella virus. It is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact with fluid from chickenpox blisters.



      Symptoms

      • Small, red poxes that are flat at first but become raised as they fill with fluid.

      • Itchy blisters all over the body that scab over in four to five days.

      • Chickenpox is often accompanied by a mild fever.



      Treatment

      If chickenpox is suspected, children are sent home immediately and parents are urged to take them to a health care provider for diagnosis.

      For most children, treating the symptoms of chickenpox while their immune system fights off the virus is usually sufficient. These treatments include oatmeal and other special baths for blisters and Tylenol for fever. However, newborns and children with compromised immune systems may be prescribed antiviral medication.

      Students may return to school once all the blisters have scabbed over, Taylor said. Chickenpox is contagious one to two days before blisters form and up to a week afterward.

      Children are now required to have two shots of the varicella vaccine, so incidences of chickenpox have declined over the years, Taylor said. Still, chickenpox affects about 4 million people each year, mostly children, according to the Southern Nevada Health District.

      If there are multiple cases of chickenpox reported at a school, the Southern Nevada Health District is notified. If it determines there has been an outbreak of chickenpox at a school, students who have not been immunized will be required to stay at home. Classwork and homework will be sent home, Taylor said.

      To prevent infections, children are urged not to pick at blisters. Parents are advised not to have "chickenpox parties" where children are naturally immunized by planned exposure to chickenpox. That would put children intentionally at risk for severe complications, such as pneumonia and encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain.

      For more information, visit the Southern Nevada Health District website.

    • Lice

      Pediculosis, or head lice, is an infestation of the hair and scalp by the head louse, an insect that feeds on human blood. It is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact with an infested person.



      Symptoms

      • Itching and scratching of the head

      • Nits, or eggs, in the hair

      • Small, gray-white insects in the hair



      Treatment

      If head lice is suspected, children are sent home immediately and parents are urged to take them to a health care provider for diagnosis. Siblings and close friends may also be called to the school nurse for inspection.

      Parents may purchase special over-the-counter or prescription shampoos and conditioners that contain pesticides. Natural remedies include slathering olive oil or mayonnaise on the head, which theoretically would smother the lice. Parents are advised not to use strong chemicals, like kerosene, that are not intended for treating lice.

      These do not kill the nits, however, so parents are required to use a special comb or fingernails to take the eggs out. If the nits are not removed, they will hatch a week later.

      Students may return to school immediately after being treated. This could be within the same day, Taylor said. School nurses will check children's heads to see whether they have any live insects before the children return to class.

      Children should not share clothes, combs and hats with others. In many classrooms, teachers have begun to allow students to keep coats and backpacks at their desks.

      Parents are urged to wash children's clothes and bag their stuffed animals and toys for about a week to kill the lice. Spraying pesticides around the house is not recommended; vacuuming the floors is sufficient, Taylor said.

      For more information, visit the Southern Nevada Health District website.

    • Scabies

      Scabies is a skin infestation that is caused by the human itch mite, a microscopic parasite that burrows into the upper layer of the skin where it feeds on blood and lays its eggs. It is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact with an infested person.



      Symptoms

      • Itching

      • Elongated bite marks on the breasts, elbows, thighs and waistline

      • Pimple-like, red skin rash that becomes raised as the rash fills with fluid



      Treatment

      If scabies are suspected, children are sent home immediately and parents are urged to take them to a health care provider for diagnosis.

      A doctor or nurse practitioner will prescribe a cream, which must be applied all over the body for about eight hours, or a pill. Over-the-counter medications may work, but are usually not as strong a treatment, Taylor said. Affected children should not be treated with head lice medication.

      Parents are urged to machine wash and dry their children's clothes on high heat and zip-lock anything that cannot be washed easily — such as a stuffed animals — in a plastic bag for seven days. Human itch mites will die without feeding after two or three days, Taylor said.

      For more information, visit the Southern Nevada Health District website.

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    1. Wow really don't people make thier kids take a bath EVERY DAY ?