A primary school in Kansas closed for three days this week after being hit by a wave of respiratory illnesses among students and staff.
Christ the King Catholic School, a K-8 school with 250 students and 21 teachers in Kansas City, Kansas, closed Wednesday after more than 50 children and seven staff members reported illness.
Officials plan to disinfect the building on days off. It is due to reopen on Monday.
It comes amid a nationwide upsurge in the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) which has hit young children the hardest.
Pediatric hospitals across the United States report that they are at or near capacity as rising cases overwhelm emergency rooms.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 7,945 new RSV infections in the week ending November 5.
This is a massive upward shift from the less than 2,000 cases reported in early September.
Just over 1,300 flu cases were also reported nationwide that week, up from just a few hundred in August and the highest figure this flu season so far.
The outbreak has caused the temporary closure of dozens of schools across the country due to staffing issues or to prevent further spread of the virus.
Experts had warned that this year’s flu season would be tougher than in previous years after lockdowns during the pandemic left many people’s immune systems ill-prepared.
These flu closures also echo the devastating school policies put in place during the first months of the pandemic.
Confirmed flu cases reached 13,806 in the week ending Nov. 5, a new high for this season and strong growth from previous weeks
Confirmed RSV cases reached 12,905 in the week ending October 29, while the rate of positive tests reached 18.8% in the week ending November 5.
CDC reports 21 states have ‘high’ or ‘very high’ influenza activity and six have moderate activity
“With the high number of positive cases of influenza A and RSV among our faculty, staff and students, we will also be disinfecting the building,” the school wrote on its Facebook page.
School officials told local media KMBC they closed the school in anticipation of the spread of disease.
Cathy Fithian, the school’s principal, also said the lack of staff played a part in the decision.
“If you can’t staff your building and have teachers in the classrooms, you just can’t have a school,” she said.
Entire Alabama school district of 5,000 students moves to remote learning amid flu outbreak – echoing devastating pandemic policy
Thirteen Alabama schools switched to remote learning amid a flu outbreak this week, with virus hospitalizations in the state three times higher than normal.
In a move reminiscent of Covid lockdowns, the Marshall County School District said it was suspending in-person instruction for four days.
The closures “will mitigate the spread of the virus”, according to the school which said it could not stay open due to increased teacher absences.
Last week, CDC data revealed that America was facing its worst flu crisis in a decade, with seventeen states already recording “high” or “very high” levels of the disease.
This decision will force more than 5,000 primary and secondary students to take their lessons at home rather than in the classroom.
Students will need to log into the school system from home to access their course materials. Some parents have already expressed their concerns, suggesting that their child does not have access to a computer at home.
It comes despite mounting evidence that school closures during Covid have deprived children of an education and deepened inequality.
Research indicates that American school children have fallen by about six months in math alone on average, with those in poorer regions now two and a half years behind.
It’s not the first school to have to close due to rising flu cases.
The Brighton School in Baton Rouge, LA – a special school for students with dyslexia – closed on October 25 due to an increase in cases of respiratory illnesses.
Aquadale Elementary School and South Stanly Middle School, both just outside Charlotte, North Carolina, closed Oct. 25-26.
In Decatur, Alabama, near the state’s northern border, Austinville Elementary School closed for a week from Oct. 25-31.
Elementary, middle and high schools in Lynchburg-Clay, Cincinnati, Ohio, all closed or started virtual learning Nov. 4 amid an outbreak of respiratory disease.
All eight schools in Union County, Kentucky, closed Nov. 7 due to a flu outbreak.
Thirteen schools in Marshall County, Alabama also closed for four days this week.
There are concerns that these types of school closures could set children back, after long-term virtual learning in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic led to social development issues among American children.
Studies also show that many have fallen behind in key disciplines like math and reading.
Health officials have long warned that this year’s flu season will be more brutal than in previous years.
Common viruses like the flu largely disappeared in the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic as masking and social distancing prevented the spread.
They are back this year, however, as many lack the immune protection to fight off the virus.
Some have even warned of a “triple epidemic” as influenza, RSV and COVID-19 usually peak at the end of the year.
Confirmed RSV cases hit a new peak in the week ending Oct. 29, with the CDC reporting 12,905 infections.
While the weekly numbers have since declined, a stabilization in test positivity signals that the actual number of cases continues to rise.
Test positivity is considered a more accurate measure of an outbreak because it takes into account fluctuations in the number of tests performed.
The test positivity rate of 18.8% in the week ending November 5 is the highest this season so far – slightly surpassing the week’s 18.7% mark former.
The virus poses a significant threat to young children. The CDC reports that up to 500 children in America die from RSV each year.
In young children, an infection can often cause pneumonia or inflammation of the airways in the lungs. These are life-threatening symptoms.
The flu is sweeping across America for the first time since Covid also struck, with the southern United States the hardest hit.
According to the CDC, a group of southern states are hammered by the flu.
Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia are all reporting the highest levels of flu activity, according to the CDC.
Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, New Mexico and Texas report “very high”.
The United States is currently seeing 40,835 new infections every day, an increase of 9% over the past two weeks.
America is also suffering 326 daily deaths from the virus, a 9% drop over 14 days.