School district closes as flu cases increase

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Another school district has fallen victim to the flu and locally confirmed cases have nearly doubled in the past week.

Kelly School District in Benton, Mo., dismissed classes Friday after 22 percent of its 700 elementary and middle school students were absent due to illness.

"Some were confirmed flu cases among students and staff, others had high fevers, vomiting," Kelly superintendent Don Moore said. "We're trying to take advantage of a long weekend, hopefully that will alleviate some of the symptoms we're seeing."

Several neighboring school districts were also out Friday, though the closings were scheduled due to teacher development workshops. Still, administrators said the day off was timely as absenteeism increased due to illness.

"Hopefully, we're on the back side of this now," Moore said. "It hurts financially as well as educationally. Sometimes we've got a classroom half-empty and the teacher can't really go on with that many out."

According to local health departments, the flu season got a late start this year. The number of cases usually peaks in December or January, but has only recently begun to rise locally.

Last week, Leopold School District canceled classes for two days to allow students time to recover from flu-like symptoms. At the time, 16 percent of the district's 218 students were out sick.

On Feb. 7, the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center had only 68 confirmed cases of the flu reported since November. Seven days later, that number had jumped to 122.

According to Carol Jordan with the health department, 44 percent of the new cases reported were ages 5 to 24.

Local health departments still have numerous vaccinations available for anyone who would like one.

"Some people think it's too late in season, but it's not," Jordan said. "We haven't even peaked yet in Cape."

cclark@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 128

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