This year’s flu season has become a great cause for concern among health officials, and it’s running rampant in one Virginia high school.
Nearly half of the students at Stafford High School in Fredericksburg, Virginia, were absent from school last week with flu-like and gastrointestinal symptoms, according to the district.
“There are approximately 1,000 students absent with flu-like/gastrointestinal symptoms at Stafford High School. Our Health Services team is working with the local health department to identify the root cause of the illness,” Sandra K. Osborn, chief communications officer with Stafford County Public Schools, said in a statement.
Nearly 2,100 students are currently enrolled at the school, CNN reported.
School-related events scheduled for last weekend were postponed, according to the school’s online calendar and a message on its website.
“Due to the high number of student and staff illnesses reported this week, all Stafford High School activities and athletics scheduled through Sunday, October 23, are canceled. We will reassess conditions on Monday and provide you with further information,” the statement reads.
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Health officials have been monitoring influenza in other countries such as Australia and New Zealand where the flu is traditionally active from April to October to predict how it could impact the U.S. This year was particularly tough on Australia, which had its worst season in five years, CNN reported. Cases topped out nearly three times higher than average for that time, and they peaked two months earlier than usual, government surveillance reports suggest.
In September, the Director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci told Bloomberg News that the U.S. should prepare for a “pretty bad flu season.”
“The Southern Hemisphere has had a pretty bad flu season, and it came on early,” Fauci said. “Influenza—as we all have experienced over many years—can be a serious disease, particularly when you have a bad season.”
There is also a looming fear over a “twindemic,” and quite possibly a “tripledemic” as health officials throw COVID and the respiratory virus R.S.V. into the mix.
“This could very well be the year in which we see a twindemic,” Infectious Disease Professor at Vanderbilt University Dr. William Schaffner told NPR. “That is, we have a surge in COVID and simultaneously an increase in influenza. We could have them both affecting our population at the same time.”