A flu outbreak triggered a North Texas school district to shut its doors on Tuesday and Wednesday, top administrators announced Monday.
In an online message to Sunnyvale Independent School District families, Superintendent Doug Williams said district officials made the decision to cancel classes on their campuses following “much consideration” and because of “the number of students and staff members exhibiting flu-like symptoms.”
Williams stated, “Sunnyvale Elementary has seen an increase in the number of confirmed cases of influenza, as has Sunnyvale Middle School, and Sunnyvale High School.”
On Friday, student absences hit 10 percent at the elementary school, according to KDFW. Then, on Monday, Sunnyvale Elementary had 85 absences, reflecting 12 percent of the district’s students.
Sunnyvale, a town located east of Dallas, is in Dallas County. It has a small school district, enrolling around 1,800 students across three campuses – one elementary, middle, and a high school. They are in close proximity to one another and to the school district offices.
Administrators actually began discussing potential school closures on Friday. Following Monday’s uptick in absences, Williams said the district “crossed a threshold” leading to his announcement to shut down Sunnyvale ISD on Tuesday and Wednesday. “More than anything, this is a student safety issue,” he stated.
Williams wanted to extend the closures through Thursday to allow students more time to recover but with end of semester finals starting next week, he decided against that course of action. While the district remains closed for two days, school facilities and buses will get disinfected.
“As the number of confirmed cases of influenza grows, it is important to increase health and safety protocols for each campus, including disinfection of all buses and spaces,” stated Williams.
Sunnyvale ISD administrators hope these measures help to curtail future flu cases. All extra-curricular and after-school activities are also postponed during the closures.
The Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS) recorded 283 people hospitalized because of the flu between September 10 and December 2, according to The Dallas Morning News. Of these, 82 of these individuals were hospitalized on the week ending December 2.
Cases of the flu tend to pick up in October and November, often peaking between December and February, although the season can last as late as May. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) reported influenza activity continues to increase regionally around the state. Besides the flu, public health officials noticed an increase in illnesses such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a lower respiratory tract infection infection that generally strikes infants and young children.
The CDC recommends that anyone six months of age and older get a flu shot because influenza is a serious illness that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. They say that immunization can minimize the effects of the flu should an individual contract the virus. Online, the CDC offers common sense preventative measures against the flu to help stop the spread of germs. This includes washing hands, covering the mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, avoiding close contact with sick people, and when sick, limiting contact with others, as well as staying at home. Additionally, the CDC reminds people that when prescribed an antiviral medication for influenza, they need to follow their physician’s instructions on using the medication.
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