McLoud Public Schools was the latest district to cancel classes Friday, after a rising number of students and teachers came down with seasonal sicknesses like the flu, stomach flu and strep throat. Doctors say this is an important step in preventing further spread of illness.
More than 300 students and teachers in McLoud called out sick this week. District staff members tell News 9 they ran out of substitutes to call in, and despite spraying disinfectants throughout their buildings for the last three weeks, they decided the schools needed something extra. The maintenance and cleaning crews remained on-site Friday to deep clean all the facilities.
Dr. Rachel Franklin, medical director at OU Physicians Family Medicine, says, “I would encourage, as a doctor, that employers and school systems think about ways that they can help people work from home or get their homework done without exposing other people to this virus.”
OU's physicians have been busy treating positive cases of the flu, and say it is important to stay home for five full days if you get the flu symptoms of fever, aches and persistant cough. Also, call your doctor before going in not only to prevent the spread of the flu, but also because they may just prescribe bed rest, hydration and over-the-counter medicine.
“We all feel the stresses of needing to continue our daily lives,” says Franklin, “whether it’s collecting a paycheck or getting our homework done, during a flu season. The problem is this is a serious infectious illness that can kill people.”
Over the past week, this season's flu deaths have doubled in the state, and there have already been more hospitalizations than all of last season.
It is still not too late to get the flu vaccine, but it does take two weeks to kick in. That is why doctors say next year, abide by their advice. “When your doctor recommends in September or October that you get your flu vaccine so that you’re ready when it hits February, please consider getting this vaccine,” says Franklin.
The state health department says Oklahoma has not reached an epidemic level for the flu, but January to early February are the peak times of the season, so be sure to take extra precautions.
The CDC and health departments will not determine how effective this season's flu vaccine is in fighting the two most widespread flu strains until new cases start to dwindle around May.