The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

January 17, 2013

Schools, churches taking special steps to combat flu

JOHNSTOWN — The most severe flu season in recent years has schools and churches across the region stepping up prevention efforts.

Bishop Mark L. Bartchak of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese this week issued temporary guidelines eliminating the distribution of wine during communion and instructing parishioners to exchange nods instead of handshakes.

“It is the belief of the Catholic Church that the whole body of Christ is present under either form of consecrated bread or wine,” Bartchak said in the announcement.

In addition, the bishop suggested accepting the communion wafer by hand instead of on the tongue.

At schools, students are getting some crash courses on infectious diseases and custodians have doubled their cleaning and sanitation work, superintendents say.

Pictures located near hand-washing sinks show Greater Johnstown School District students the  recommended technique, Superintendent Gerald L. Zahorchak said.

“We are doing things like using materials from the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to remind ourselves of the flu-prevention measures we want,” Zahorchak said.

“I was just checking to see that there are hand sanitizers within 30 steps in any direction,” Zahorchak said.

“Staff is constantly monitoring the supply.”

So far, it seems to be helping, Zahorchak said, noting that absenteeism has been “pretty stable.”

Most other schools contacted also reported normal absentee rates over the past couple weeks.

Two exceptions were Richland and Forest Hills elementary schools, where about 10 percent of the seats were empty earlier this week.

High school nurse Merikay Moore said she's not sure the flu is the main culprit for Richland Elementary’s 80 absent pupils.

“We have another virus going around,” Moore said. “There is a lot of nausea and vomiting. Flu is mostly respiratory symptoms. You also have fever and body aches (with the flu).”

Richland Elementary sent information home with students, reminding families of flu precautions, such as staying an arm’s length from other students and not crowding around the teacher’s desk.

“The most important thing is to stay at home if they don’t feel good,” Moore said.

Students must be fever-free, with temperatures under 100 degrees without aspirin or similar medicine, for 24 hours before returning to school. The same rules apply to teachers.

At North Star School District in Somerset County, Superintendent Shawn Kovac said the stable absentee rate has not brought complacency.

“We are stepping up our cleaning,” Kovac said. “They are disinfecting all surfaces every night now. Normally it’s a couple of times a week.”

Cambria Heights schools Superintendent Michael Strasser said the district has built on the lessons learned during the H1N1 flu and methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) outbreaks in recent years.

“The experience of those past couple things sort of prepared us,” Strasser said. “We are taking precautions. Our custodians are doing extra cleaning and disinfecting desktops.”

The good news is that the flu season seems to be reaching its peak locally, and the illness itself has not been unusually severe in most patients, Memorial Medical Center’s chairman of emergency medicine said.

“I don’t believe it is any more severe than other years,” Dr. Daniel Wehner said from Memorial. “They don’t seem to be getting the complications like staphylococcal pneumonia or sepsis (widespread reaction to infection).”

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • District Deaths July 31, 2014

    July 30, 2014

  • Smaller payout to seniors urged

    State Lottery officials say less means more for seniors.

    July 29, 2014

  • Portage ambulance aid will add portable CPR device, other tools

    Federal funding awarded to Portage Area Ambulance Association will soon put “a third man” alongside their two-person crews when emergencies occur, ambulance operations manager Edward Nelson said.

    July 29, 2014

  • paint_twp building Paint Township considers offering part of building for rent

    Four years after Paint Township built an addition at the Basin Drive building to house its growing police department, much of the new space likely will be offered for rent this fall because the township supervisors say it's no longer needed.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Old Rockwood hotel will soon be history

    The historic – but dilapidated – Merchants Hotel in Rockwood is expected to be razed soon.
    On Tuesday, Somerset County’s three commissioners unanimously agreed to a demolition plan for the building, which was constructed in the 1880s. The arrangement calls for a private citizen, William Nair, to tear down the structure at 703 Main St. in exchange for being allowed to keep any salvageable materials.

    July 29, 2014

  • Tribune Treasure!

    July 30, 2014

  • ATV blast ready to roll at Rock Run

    Organizers are keeping the spirit of the Fisher’s ATV Reunion at Rock Run Recreation Area alive despite losing the support of the award-winning Outdoor Channel TV show “Fisher’s ATV World.” Now called the Rock Run ATV Summer Blast, the event will continue to offer demonstration rides, motor competitions, product vendors, live music, camping and trail riding.

    July 29, 2014

  • Culvert 1 Preservationists use age-old method at historic site

    Preservation work on two historic culverts associated with the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site has been completed. The culverts were reconstructed using a variety of techniques, including dry stone masonry, which was used to build the culverts more than 180 years ago.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Local briefs 7/30/2014

    July 29, 2014

  • Officer, civilian motorist injured in crash

    A Johnstown police officer who was responding to an emergency and one other driver were taken to the hospital after they were injured in a three-vehicle accident around 5:40 p.m. Tuesday on Railroad Street at the intersection with Clinton Street and Church Avenue.
    The Johnstown Fire Department said that the three occupants of the third vehicle were not injured.

    July 29, 2014


What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

     View Results
House Ads