Metro-East News

Litchfield cancels school due to influenza

In this March 23, 2015, U.S. Air Force file photo, Staff Sgt. Bianca Raleigh, 31st Medical Operations Squadron allergy and immunizations noncommissioned officer in charge, administers a patient’s shot at Aviano Air Base, Italy.
In this March 23, 2015, U.S. Air Force file photo, Staff Sgt. Bianca Raleigh, 31st Medical Operations Squadron allergy and immunizations noncommissioned officer in charge, administers a patient’s shot at Aviano Air Base, Italy. Provided

Influenza has caused enough absences in Litchfield that school has been canceled for Thursday and Friday.

The Journal-News in Hillsboro reported on its Facebook page Wednesday evening that school would be canceled for the rest of the week due to the outbreak of influenza at the school.

Litchfield Superintendent Debbie Poffinbarger said by the end of the day, approximately 23 percent of the students were out sick. “It is my hope students will have time to recoup with the four-day weekend,” Poffinbarger said. “Custodian crews are working hard to sanitize and disinfect surfaces. I am anxious to see students back Monday, hopefully fever-free.”

The flu killed more than 20 children in Illinois last year, and this year’s outbreak is predicted to be nastier than usual. This year’s vaccine may have been mismatched for the strains that are taking hold this year, according to a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Four states already have widespread flu activity, while there was no real spread at this point last year, according to NBC News. The dominant strain appears to be H3N2, which causes more severe illness than others.

But the flu vaccine still has enough strength to lessen the impact, both on the individual patient and on the outbreak, experts say. A new vaccination is needed every year because of the shifting nature of the flu, and it’s not too late to get one for this year.

Influenza is a respiratory disease characterized by fever, chills, cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, body aches and fatigue. People with the common cold are more likely to have nasal congestion than people with the flu, though the symptoms can often mimic each other. A diagnostic test conducted in the first few days of illness can tell if the person has an ordinary cold or the flu.

Serious complications can include inflammation of the heart or brain, multiple organ failure, sepsis or severe pneumonia. Seasonal influenza causes 3-5 million severe cases and up to half a million deaths every year worldwide. The U.S. sees 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 to 56,000 deaths every year from the flu.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald

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