As I’m hammering away on my keyboard, I’m actively searching for a piece of wood, because I’m one sentence away from jinxing my family.

So far, in a season where two local schools have closed because of illness, my family has been relatively healthy this winter (OK, now where’s that wood to knock on?)

The flu and other illnesses are wreaking havoc on area schools, hospitals and long-term care facilities. With three children under the age of 8, I feel as if it’s not a matter of “if,” but rather a matter of “when.” The precautions currently happening around the community and the Midwest in general are heightened.

Some would say it’s a little overblown for something that happens on a yearly basis. And while we’re treating this illness and the precautions differently than when I was growing up, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. We know more as a society than we did 10, 20 or 40 years ago. How we handled certain situations is vastly different and skews toward keeping others healthy.

I empathize with school districts trying to handle this kind of situation, especially the smaller ones. It’s one thing for the student population to feel the effects of various illnesses, causing disruptions in their learning environments. When those illnesses start spreading to the teachers and staff, it’s almost impossible to provide a worthwhile education to those coming to learn.

Substitute teachers aren’t banging on the doors of local schools in vast numbers. It’s difficult to find subs, so when staff members start calling in sick, it becomes even more difficult for schools to be in session. Combine that with absence rates nearing or above 20 percent, and it’s the right move to shut up shop, and move on to the next day.

What this hysteria about illnesses should not be about is making excuses. During my week covering the flu, I had a nice conversation with Camanche School District nurse Kathy Hullinger. During our interview, it inevitably veered toward what constitutes staying home and what doesn’t.

For many who aren’t entrenched in the daily lives of young people, they often have the perception that adults allow them to get away with anything and that even just a little cough may deter them from going to school or work. That wasn’t the case at all when talking with Hullinger or even Clinton Student Services Director Dave Bloom.

Hullinger had just returned from talking with students and letting them know what constitutes as being ill, and what doesn’t. That doesn’t fit the perception that many have about today’s situation when thinking about younger people dealing with sickness. With society’s newfound approach to alerting people to stay home when sick, it’s necessary to eliminate a minor cold as being an excuse as a day off.

As Hullinger said, teachers and staff members are preparing students for beyond high school, and last I checked, colleges are unforgiving for missing class time and work places have a set amount of sick days, if any, for employees.

When we see schools closing, it can sometimes cause us to reflect negatively on today’s generation in their inability to face certain obstacles. And while that may be the case sometimes (I may be a millennial by date of birth, but usually far from it in belief system), this isn’t applicable to the other concerns I may have with some of the younger generation.

Stopping the spread of illnesses is a good thing. If a person is feeling like death, then it’s probably not in their best interest to spread germs to other people, and their condition isn’t going to offer them a solid environment to learn much of anything.

Eventually the flu and other illnesses will pass through and we’ll be back to normal. It’s just a matter of moving on and hoping for better results in the coming days.

I’ll keep sanitizing every square inch of my home to avoid the inevitable during this flu season. And I’m almost certain that this is the year I will learn from those constant reminders from health professionals to stay away from work if I’m feeling like death.

Spring can’t come fast enough.

Scott Levine is the Associate Editor of the Clinton Herald. He can be reached at or @ScottLevineCH on Twitter.