Schools Across the Country Are Closing Because of the Flu

Sick child

It's not unusual for schools to periodically close during the winter months, but this season, schools across the country are canceling classes for a reason that has nothing to do with bad weather. As the flu epidemic continues to intensify, many schools are being forced to close due to the increasing number of sick kids and staff. While some have closed for just a day, others are closing for a week at a time in order to deal with this startling situation.


Although there's no official count for the number of schools closed because of the flu, there are reports of a variety of closures across 12 states. From Florida and Oklahoma to Illinois and Arkansas, officials are closing schools not only because of the number of students who are sick, but also to hopefully keep it from spreading.

Gull Lake Community Schools in Michigan were closed "due to high illness rates," while one school in Texas declared a "flu day" after state officials told anyone who was sick to stay home. In Arkansas, the Russellville School District closed all of its schools "due to the high number of students experiencing flu-like symptoms."

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Gulf District Schools in Florida closed after more than one-quarter of its 1,900 students and one-third of the 150 teachers had already called out sick because of illness, superintendent Jim Norton told CNN. 

The Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy found itself in a similar situation and closed for the first time in 30 years because the illness was spreading so rapidly through its residential campus. "We all wanted to nip this in the bud before it got worse," Tami Armstrong, the school's director of public affairs, said, according to CNN.

Another school in Chicago officially canceled classes for all of its pre-kindergarten through eighth grade students thanks to this outbreak, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says is one of the worst in years. "I know that this may be an inconvenience, but this year's flu is extremely contagious and dangerous," Komarek School Superintendent Brian Ganan wrote on the school's website. "I need to ensure that our students are safe and not exposed to the virus."

Unfortunately, the flu season isn't over yet, and it won't be surprising if even more schools decide to keep students at home during the upcoming weeks in an effort to contain the epidemic that's killing children. According to the CDC, 37 kids have already died from flu-related causes -- and that number is expected to rise.

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"We've seen kids are really making up the predominant amount of influenza-like illness," the CDC's influenza division director, Daniel Jernigan, said, according to CBS News. "And they're taking that back to school, it's getting transmitted there, and I think that's really what's driving a lot of the visits to the outpatient clinic right now."

As the number of people going to the doctor because of flu-related symptoms is still on the rise, Dr. Tara Narula told CBS News that it's reached the highest level of visits since the swine flu pandemic in 2009. According to the CDC, all states except for Hawaii reported widespread flu cases over the past week and New York City, Puerto Rico, and 39 states are experiencing "high" levels of "influenza-like illness activity." 

But the overwhelming message to parents across state lines is that if your children aren't feeling well or are starting to show any symptoms, keep them home from school. It takes only one sick kid for the flu to potentially end up closing down the entire school. 

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