A local school district has canceled all classes due to a large number of ill students, the second district to do so in two weeks as flu season hits a late peak.
Northridge Local Schools were closed Thursday and will remain closed Friday. That includes Northridge High School, Esther Dennis Middle School at Grafton Elementary, John H. Morrison Elementary, Timberlane Learning Center and Northridge Preschool.
The district had 2.5 times the normal rate of absentees on Wednesday with 250 students out, 14 teachers and three administrators, according to Superintendent David Jackson. That’s about 17 percent of the district’s student enrollment, according to state data.
Those absences included multiple confirmed flu cases.
“We kind of had two illnesses going on,” Jackson said. “One was high fever and more flu-like symptoms and one was more of a stomach bug.”
Yellow Springs Village School District closed March 8 after 70 out of about 350 students were out sick one day.
Flu cases are climbing across the Miami Valley and Ohio in a later than average peak to the season.
The flu season is defined as October through May. Hospitalizations in Montgomery County normally peak the last week of December and the first few weeks of January, according to county data.
“There’s always peaks and valleys, but it’s later this year than historical patterns,” said Dan Suffoletto, spokesman for Public Health Dayton & Montgomery County.
The trend is the same statewide, according to Ohio Department of Health data. Every part of the state has seen flu hospitalizations increase the past three weeks.
As of March 8, there were 317 flu-related hospitalizations in Montgomery County this season, 164 in Butler, 95 in Clark, 91 in Greene, 84 in Warren and 25 in Miami. Champaign and Preble counties had fewer than 10 each.
Those numbers are well below the cases reported at the same time last year, which was one of the worst flu seasons in recent years. The 2017-18 flu season was deadlier than any in at least four decades, killing 80,000 Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A typical year sees between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths.
The number of influenza-related hospitalizations in Ohio last season was the highest in five years.
Four children have died as a result of the flu in Ohio this season, ODH reports, the same as last year’s total. Child deaths are an indicator of the severity of illness during the flu season.
Montgomery County hasn’t had any reported flu deaths this season. At least two elderly adults have died in Clark County.
“A lot of people may not take the flu seriously,” Suffoletto said. “But people do die from the flu.”
Health officials say the best way to prevent the flu is getting a flu shot and there is still time to do that this season.
The flu shot also lessens symptoms if you get sick.
“You also want to practice proper precautions in terms of covering your mouth when you cough and sneeze and also washing your hands frequently,” Suffoletto said.
It’s recommended that those with the flu stay home from school or work to not spread the virus, he said.
School officials said the recent closures were to give kids time away from each other to stop the spread of germs. Many local schools will be off for spring break in the coming weeks. Northridge’s break begins March 25.
The closed schools got a deep cleaning Thursday, officials said.
“Door knobs, locker handles, bathrooms, tables, chairs, desks, so on and so fourth, anything that a kid would touch or a staff member would touch, we’re trying to sanitize,” Jackson said.
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