A Virginia high school that saw more than 1,000 students out sick with a flu outbreak re-opened Monday after shutting down and postponing all activities.
The school, located in northern Virginia in the city of Fredericksburg, has an approximate enrollment of 2,100 students – meaning close to half its population was out sick last weekend. Officials at Stafford High School said a deep cleaning and disinfecting was performed over the weekend after being shut down Friday.
“There are approximately 1,000 students absent with flu-like/gastrointestinal symptoms at Stafford High School,” Sandra K. Osborn, chief communications officer with Stafford County Public Schools, said in a statement last week. “Our Health Services team is working with the local health department to identify the root cause of the illness.”
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In a letter obtained by Fox 5 Washington DC, Principal Allen Hicks said: “We remain very concerned, and will continue to monitor the situation alerting you to any changes we may need to make to our operations. Our custodial staff will conduct an extensive and thorough wipe down of the entire school this evening.”
It still remains unclear how the outbreak occurred. Messages made by USA TODAY to the school were not immediately returned Monday morning. The school’s newspaper, The Smoke Signal, reported the cause of the widespread infections was an Oct. 15 homecoming dance attended by more than 1,200 students in the school cafeteria.
While cases of the seasonal flu often increase in October and peak in the winter months, an overall increase in flu activity has been reported in most of the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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One high school in the San Diego Unified School District had a similar situation earlier this month with around 1,000 absences out of 2,600 students, according to The Los Angeles Times.
The CDC recommends that children older than 6 months and adults get a flu vaccine by the end of October. Elizabeth Schlaudecker, clinical director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, said getting flu shots before symptoms show up is necessary: “Don’t wait until your child gets really sick before you seek care and get your kids their flu shot.”
Contributing: Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY.