The number of students calling out sick is growing at Rogers Park Elementary by the day this week.

On Monday, 160 of the 506 enrolled students were absent from school due to illness. Twelve staff members also stayed home, according to Anchorage School District Communications Director Alan Brown.

On Tuesday, those numbers increased to nearly half of the student body.

"Today at Rogers Park of the 506 enrolled, 238 were absent," Brown wrote in an email. "Fourteen staff were also absent."

Brown wrote the district is unsure if all of the students are actually sick, or if their parents are choosing to keep them home from school to prevent infections.

The exact cause of the sickness has not been officially identified, but Brown said the district has been working with the Anchorage Health Department and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services to determine what type of bug they're dealing with.

Barry Piser, a spokesman for the health department, said it's likely that influenza B is causing many of the illnesses at the school; however, other common wintertime pathogens are also likely circulating.

"Symptoms among students at the school are wide-ranging from a low-grade fever, achiness, lethargy, stomachache, headache and congestion," Brown wrote. "It is important to note that specific symptoms vary from child to child."
Staff will wipe down all touch surfaces in the school Tuesday with hospital-grade disinfectant. This was also done over the weekend and on Monday night, when staff focused on door knobs, desks and bathroom fixtures.

According to Brown, the bug seems to be contained to the elementary school. As of Tuesday, he said the district isn't aware of any other schools with an "unusually high rate" of absences because of sickness.
If students have any symptoms, parents are asked to keep them home to prevent anything from spreading. Brown said parents should talk with their health care provider if they're concerned about their children being infected.
Parents with questions can call Anchorage Health Department Public Health Nurse Drew Shannon at 907-343-4767 or the Alaska Section of Epidemiology at 907-269-8000 for more information.

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