Several schools across Faulkner County and neighboring towns have closed recently due to the flu joining the ever-growing list of totals across Arkansas.
Just this week, Conway Christian, Mayflower and Guy-Perkins have had to close their doors.
The Log Cabin Democrat spoke with Mayflower Public Schools Superintendent John Gray on Wednesday. He said they had about 1,000 students within the district and had 140 kids and around six or so teachers out, with absences increasing each day.
“This flu is having far more of an effect,” he told the LCD.
Mayflower chose to close down Thursday and Friday this week – as AMI Days – and continue to disinfect the buildings and buses.
“That’ll give us the weekend,” Gray said. “Four days should be the number of days we need to break the (flu) cycle.”
By Thursday, Conway Christian and Guy-Perkins made decisions to do the same; both will be closed on Friday.
Conway Christian CEO Jason Carson told the LCD they have not seen a “concerning level” of students out across the private school – just about a dozen confirmed cases – but with other area schools shutting down and what’s happening across the community, they decided to do the same.
“We’re doing it as a precaution,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, safety is one of my No. 1 priorities. Always want to err on the side of caution, especially if we have something we think we can help us.”
Carson said that about two years ago, Conway Christian purchased a de-sanitizing machine. He said chemicals are put inside the “Ghostbuster-like” pack, which then blows the cleaner – which is proven to kill dozens of viruses including influenza – onto varying surfaces and dries within two to three minutes.
“We’re going to utilize that weapon we have and spray down our entire campus [on Friday],” the CEO said. “It is something that we want to take this opportunity, we’re a little concerned about where the levels are at in the state.”
Carson said that the maintenance staff will be the only ones on campus Friday.
“Have a good weekend and stay healthy!” Conway Christian posted to its Facebook page.
Originally, Guy-Perkins Superintendent Joe Fisher spoke with the LCD on Jan. 31 after making an announcement prior via Facebook letting parents and students now the district would be closed Feb. 3, all due to the flu. He said at that point, they were dealing with more teachers falling ill than students but on Friday, numbers had hit a peak forcing them to make a decision.“Throughout the day ... (it) finally hit,” Fisher said. “People leaving all day long.” He said it’s been a steady 10-12 percent of students out but Friday those numbers hit around 26 percent. “It jumped up pretty quickly,” the superintendent said. The custodians, support staff, Fisher and others met up at the school to disinfect and clean on Monday. “We just feel like if we can give students the weekend and a day to recuperate and we have an opportunity to disinfect that we should be able to have everybody back on Tuesday that’s well,” Fisher previously told the LCD.
By Thursday though, Guy-Perkins had decided to close Feb. 7, again due to a spike in illness campus-wide.
“Students need to be sure to log in for their AMI packet or pick up a hard copy upon returning to school,” the Facebook post reads. “Teachers will be helping students when we return in making sure that all work is caught up. The home basketball games scheduled for tonight, Thursday, will still be held. Basketball, FFA and quiz bowl activities will continue as planned throughout the weekend.”
Since Sept. 29, 2019, the Arkansas Department of Health has received 16,900 positive influenza test reports, though officials warn that those reported cases only reflect a portion of the state’s actual numbers seeing as some don’t seek medical treatment, with 36 flu-related deaths, one of them a pediatric.
In its weekly influenza report, ADH officials also stated that the average school absenteeism rate during week five – Jan. 25-Feb. 4 – was 7.6 percent among public schools and as of Feb. 4, the department was aware of 23 schools/districts across Arkansas that had closed due to the flu this season. On Thursday, ADH’s Danyelle McNeill confirmed the current number to be five schools and 27 districts.
2019-20 Flu Season
Every year the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends viruses that should be targeted in the flu vaccine. This year, WHO officials called for the common virus strain, or Influenza A, which has been the dominant flu strain for 27 years in the U.S. but Influenza B seems to be the strain wreaking havoc this flu season, according to the CDC.
“Influenza B virus infection is more common among children and can cause complications, resulting in hospitalization or death,” CDC officials said.
Cumulative data from the CDC’s public health laboratories show 58 percent of people who tested for the flu have received positive results for influenza B, with only 42 percent testing positive for influenza A.
Despite, the CDC and other health officials are still encouraging the public to get that flu shot and abide by the usual advice: get the shot, wash hands frequently, avoid contact with sick people, disinfect and clean, get enough sleep, eat right and don’t forget that vitamin D, be a careful shopper avoiding high-peak shopping hours, don’t touch eyes, nose and mouth.