Flu Closes School Districts In Adair, Muskogee Counties

Thursday, January 17th 2013, 7:14 am
By: Craig Day

The latest numbers from the Oklahoma State Department of Health show the number of people who've died from the flu this season in Oklahoma remains at eight, but the number of hospitalizations from the illness has jumped.

Just in the past week, 100 people have been put in the hospital because of the flu.

The most cases are in Tulsa County, but it's hitting people statewide, and the flu is prompting more schools to cancel classes, including in Westville, in Adair County.

In Westville, the school is the hub of the community. But the hub has the flu bug.

"It hit hard, it hit really hard," said Superintendent Terry Heustis.

So many students and teachers are sick that Westville canceled classes Thursday and Friday.

About 20 percent of the district's 1,145 students, mostly in the elementary school, have the flu.

"One class, it decimated the whole class, almost. There were five kids left, so they put them in another class. The teacher had went home and the TA had went home from that kindergarten class," Heustis said.

Wednesday's school day started with 110 elementary students absent and 20 more were sent home during the day.

Of the older students, 70 were sick.

"It was getting rampant, and in the staff, too, because we had 12 staff out yesterday and sent four of them home throughout the day, and that was just in elementary," Heustis said.

The school is being scrubbed while the kids are out to kill germs. Even the school's nurse got the flu.

"She'd been handling these kids all day, every day for the past two weeks, and it finally hit her and she had the flu vaccine," Heustis said.

Westville's superintendent said calling off school isn't an easy decision, but with so many shared areas for all grades, like the cafeteria and library, he felt it was needed.

The flu is spreading across the state with eight deaths and nearly 500 hospitalizations, since the end of September.

In Westville, with two days off, plus Saturday and Sunday, and school already out Monday for professional training, it's hoped it will be enough of a break to put the brakes on the spread of the flu.

"We should be good to go on Tuesday. We're hoping this will break the flu bug here," Heustis said.

Porum Schools, in Muskogee County, also canceled classes Friday, because so many students have the flu.

The district is already out of class on Monday.