More than 160 of 1,100 students have reported being out sick with flu-like symptoms from Clarkdale elementary, middle and high school campuses since last Thursday.
At the high school alone, 41 students were sent home between Thursday and Friday and 61 students were sent home Monday, Clarkdale school nurse Kristian Jadzinski said. Those numbers include all illnesses.
What started off as a sickness at the high school has spread to the other two Clarkdale schools, Jadzinski said. It is the worst outbreak she's seen in her eight years at the school.
“This is far most the worst flu season I have ever seen,” Jadzinski said.
Other Lauderdale County School District schools have had students out with flu-like symptoms in the same period, but nothing to the extent of Clarkdale, district communications coordinator Andrea Williams said.
The district has not made a decision about how to handle the flu at Clarkdale but the school will remain open on Tuesday, Williams said. If a student has flu-like symptoms, they will be sent home, Williams said.
Meridian Public Schools are reporting numbers typical for the flu season. While working with another nurse in the district, Meridian High School nurse DeAndra Hosey said there have been only a few cases of students with flu-like symptoms. Hosey said those students have been sent home.
Jadzinski believes the flu this year is an aggressive strain and she has been getting reports it is the A strain.
The flu shot is encouraged but it usually takes two weeks for the immune system to build an immunity to the flu, Jadzinski said.
Throughout the state, Mississippi has been experiencing an increasing number of the flu cases. The Mississippi State Department of Health has not received a report of flu outbreak from a school in Lauderdale County, Dr. Paul Byers, state epidemiologist, stated in an email. The majority strain of the flu throughout the state has been influenza A H3, Byers said. Byers said it is not too late to get the flu shot since that is the best way to be protected from flu complications.
Jadzinski said she believes some students have been vaccinated but was not sure how many of the children who are sick have or have not had the vaccine.
The Clarkdale schools have been taking precautions such as encouraging hand washing, using hand sanitizer, covering mouths when coughing and having teachers spraying and wiping down desks between classes.
Jadzinski said the public should visit the school only if necessary.
While students and staff are encouraged to get the flu shot it is not required, Clarkdale High School PrincipalKen Hardy said.
“At this point, we have been hit the hardest,” Hardy said.
Jadzinski said students who are not feeling well, have symptoms of the flu or have a fever over 100 degrees should say at home, so others will not become exposed. Jadzinski said some symptoms are coughing, headaches, sore throat, body aches, and some G.I. problems.
“We are asking them to stay home even if they have symptoms without a fever,” Jadzinski said.
Jadzinski said she was not sure why the flu this year has become widespread but one factor could be students being indoors more.