Metro-East News

Litchfield students back to school after flu outbreak; bad season on its way, experts say

Vaccines by the Numbers: A public health achievement

Between 2001 and 2010, the United States saw big declines in the number of cases of vaccine-preventable diseases. Because of this, vaccines are one of the top public health achievements of the decade.
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Between 2001 and 2010, the United States saw big declines in the number of cases of vaccine-preventable diseases. Because of this, vaccines are one of the top public health achievements of the decade.

Litchfield students returned to school Monday after nearly one in four students were out with the flu last week.

Litchfield schools canceled classes Thursday and Friday last week after 23 percent of the students were sick with influenza. Superintendent Debbie Poffinbarger said she hoped the four-day weekend would allow the students to recover from their illness, while custodians worked to clean and disinfect surfaces throughout the schools.

What actions—apart from getting vaccinated and taking medicine—can you take to help slow the spread of illnesses like the flu? The flu virus has killed 20 children in Illinois.

Students returned Monday with a normal 6 percent absentee rate, Poffinbarger said.

“We are back and our numbers look much better,” she said. “I was glad to see many of the students back, and hope those that are out will be able to return soon.”

Other school districts reported normal absentee levels, but most medical experts are predicting a nastier-than-usual flu season. This year’s vaccine may have been mismatched for the strains that are taking hold this year, and four states already have widespread flu activity.

Seasonal influenza causes 3-5 million severe cases and up to half a million deaths every year worldwide. The U.S. alone sees 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 to 56,000 deaths every year from the flu.

One story has already spread nationwide: a perfectly healthy mother of two in Phoenix came down with the flu after Thanksgiving, and two days later had died. That is unfortunately more common with the H3N2 strain that appears to be dominant this year than other strains, experts told the Washington Post.

The CDC reports more than 6,000 people have been diagnosed with the flu so far this year, double the rate of last year at this time.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald

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