Mono making its presence felt this winter in midstate

Children across Middle Georgia have been coming down with something other than the flu in recent weeks.

They’re catching mono.

Gray Elementary School in Jones County has had at least seven reported cases, and Primary Pediatrics in Macon, which has eight physicians, has been diagnosing about 50 cases of infectious mononucleosis a day, said Dr. Jason Smith.

“Definitely, it’s on the rise,” Smith said. “It’s almost as many as we saw with the swine flu months ago. It’s at that same level. “I think it’s like anything else. We are in a sick season, and that’s what caught hold. This is the virus out there right now.”

Mononucleosis, known colloquially as the kissing disease, is a viral infection that typically lasts for eight weeks or more. It’s contagious and spreads through saliva or close contact. Symptoms such as a sore throat, swollen glands, fever and fatigue appear about four weeks after exposure.

Most of the cases that Primary Pediatrics has been diagnosing involved 3- and 4-year-olds as well as older children 12 to 16, Smith said.

In their Warner Robins practice, doctors have seen just as many cases, Smith said.

Officials with Middle Georgia Pediatrics in Macon say that they, too, are seeing many cases of mono.

Cecil Patterson, principal of Gray Elementary, said school officials have been trying to figure out how their students are catching mono.

“We’ve had seven or eight cases reported by parents,” he said. “It’s anywhere from kindergarten to fourth grade.”

Besides wiping down water fountains, school workers have been taking other preventative measures to try to stem the spread, he said.

Other schools have been dealing with it as well.

“Our overall number of mono cases this year has been within the normal range, but we have had a few at the lower grades, which is unusual,” said Robert Veto, Stratford Academy’s head of school. “Our Lower School principal sent out a communication to parents about mono, and we initiated some additional cleaning protocols. Not a huge outbreak by any means, but definitely something we’re keeping our eyes on.”

The Bibb County school system also has had a few cases, but David Gowan, director of risk management, said the central office hasn’t been tracking figures or the number of cases at specific schools.

And at least a few day cares in Macon have dealt with mono.

“We just keep things sterile,” said Audra Hubbard, director of The Wee Center at Wesleyan Baptist Church, which has had one reported mono case in its preschool classroom.

If parents recognize that their child has swollen lymph nodes and a fever and is lying around more than normal, “there may be something going on,” Smith said.

Usually Tylenol or ibuprofen and rest works best, Smith said. Active children can take longer to get over mono, though.

And one side effect can be an enlarged spleen, Smith said.

Parents should be careful not to let children who have been diagnosed with mono participate in any contact sports or activities such as jumping on the trampoline, he said.

It’s also a good idea for parents to check in with their doctors and alert their day cares or schools that their children have mono, he said.

Jennifer Jones, spokeswoman for the North Central Health District, said mono is not an illness that doctors or schools are required to report to them, but she said she’s heard of some cases at her own child’s day care.

“We still have not gotten any increased reports of this,” she said.

To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.