Flu Wiping Out St. Louis Schools

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The flu 'wiping out' St. Louis schools tonight.  At least two are closing to give students and teachers a chance to get better.

St. Gabriel the Archangel and St. Raphael the Archangel are shutting down;  St. Raphael on Wednesday & Thursday;  St. Gabriel on Thursday & Friday.

We`ve had kids that were out full week, getting a 102-103 temp and they just can`t fight that down,” St. Gabriel Principal, Ann Davis, said Tuesday night. “Yesterday we were at about 50 (absences) , today we were at 58-60.  It wasn’t as bad on Friday, but looking at our percentages, we’d gone from 6 to 10 to 12%.  I just called Father (Pastor Bob Samson) and said, ‘before it starts hitting the faculty, we’re starting to see more and more kids, I think this is a good time to just shut-down for a couple of days’.”  

The after-school basketball crowds were noticeably "thinner" in the St. Louis Hills neighborhood Tuesday. So were the classroom crowds.  25% of St. Raphael`s students were reportedly out sick.  Teachers were starting to fall ill, too.  The main symptoms are headache, coughing, and persistent fever.

“Influenza is muscle aches, high fever, runny nose, cough, sore throat, highly contagious.  That’s what we’re seeing,” said Dr. Robert Kennedy of St. Louis Children’s Hospital. 

“We’re seeing almost double our normal volume right now and a lot of it’s  Influenza “A”.”

The third grade class at St. Gabriel was getting hit especially hard, with nearly one-third of the 60 or so students, staying home from school.  

“My total grade 17 and my class 5 (students were out sick),” said 3rd grader, Tad Banker.  “I haven’t gotten sick yet.”

But his friend, Nick Campbell had;  his symptoms started Saturday.  Though he was feeling better Tuesday, his parents were taking the principal’s advise and keeping him home Wednesday. 

Classmate, Ali Myrick, was sick Tuesday and staying home Wednesday, too.

“I woke up.  I didn’t feel so well so I just stayed home,” she said, still coughing.

“If they can stay home tomorrow, then that’ll kind of give us a day to let families get child care taken care of for Thursday and Friday,” Davis said. 

School staff and parent volunteers planned to disinfect every surface of the school during the days off.

With the mild Winter, there have been no “snow” days this year, so the school can afford to close. 

“That’s the problem, we just haven’t had enough cold days to take care of any of these viruses that are out there,” Davis said. 

“I’m going to be missing a big computer test, which yes, I’m happy about; even though all that hard studying I’ve been doing,” said 8th grader, Michael Wiley.  “But I guess I’ll do a bit more studying and get that perfect grade on that test.”

He doubted closing school was really necessary, but then he also remembered how sick his friend was.

“I do have this one friend, he’s been like out, then back on, then out again, something’s gone on there,” Wiley said. 

“We worry about the pattern where a child is ill for 4-5 days and starting to get better and then starts to get worse again with the high fever and cough starts to get worse,” said Dr. Kennedy. 

He said that could be a sign of pneumonia creeping in.  He also said the flu vaccine could still be effective. 

“The vaccines are tailored to the specific sub-types of influenza.  They try to match as best they can what they expect to come through the community.  The match this year, what I’ve heard is pretty good, but not perfect,” he said. 

He said the vaccine really kicked in about 2 weeks after the shot. 

The St. Gabriel fish fry, one of St. Louis's most popular, was still a "go" for Friday, as was the 7th grade boys’ basketball tournament.   


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