Local schools spared flu epidemic

Published 8:35 am Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The flu in Mississippi is widespread. The Centers for Disease Control has said the spread of the flu in the nation has reached epidemic proportions.

But, according to local schools and school systems, the impact the flu has had on attendance is nothing more than normal … for right now.

The latest figures released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the flu hitting hard in most of the 43 states where the illness was widespread.

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The report is for the week of Christmas, and it shows the flu season following a similar track as the last two, when flu activity peaked no later than mid-January.

“Right now, we haven’t seen it affect too many students,” St. Aloysius Dean of Students Mike Jones said. “Oddly enough, the worst week we’ve had so far with the flu was during final exams before Christmas.”

Over on the elementary side, Mary Arledge, principal at St. Francis said the flu has held off for now.

“We actually seem to be very healthy right now. Our absent rate right now is very low. Teacher-wise, I think a lot of people were sick over the holidays with bronchitis and things like that. I haven’t heard very much flu stuff,” Arledge said. “The biggest thing is parents’ cooperation. If your child isn’t feeling well in the morning, please don’t send them to school.”

Across town, Porters Chapel Academy headmaster Pam Wilbanks said the school has been “blessed” and that the recent Christmas break might helped prevent the flu’s spread.

“We’re pretty blessed right now. We are not seeing a big increase at this point. I do know some people had it at the break but we don’t see an unusual amount,” Wilbanks said. “I do know a few people had it right before the break, but I think the break helped.”

Vicksburg Warren School District Superintendant Chad Shealy said the flu epidemic has been good to them this year.

“We’ve seen no abnormalities in attendance,” Shealy said.

While the term “epidemic” carries with it a fearful tone, the CDC reporting the flu has reached epidemic levels is nothing new.

“It’s safe to say we have a flu epidemic every year,” CDC’s Dr. Michael Jhung said.

Epidemics occur when a virus spreads quickly and affects many people at the same time. According to one CDC definition, flu is epidemic when a certain percentage of deaths in a given week are due to flu and pneumonia. By that measure, flu epidemics occurred in nine of the last dozen winters, including this one. Flu-related deaths surpassed the epidemic threshold three weeks ago, then dropped below that level the next week. But other measures indicate flu still is epidemic.

As for this flu season, experts are worried because the nasty bug that’s making most people sick isn’t included in this year’s vaccine.

Preliminary data on how well the vaccine is working is still weeks away. Among infectious diseases, flu is considered one of the nation’s leading causes of death, killing roughly 24,000 a year, on average.


CDC officials say no. Even if the flu season peaks soon, it will still be around for months. Despite the new flu strain, the vaccine has been well matched in roughly a third of the flu cases seen so far. And it is considered to be effective against some other flu viruses that could surge in the late winter or spring. About 40 percent of the public was vaccinated against flu as of November, which is about normal in recent years, Jhung said.


— The Associated Press and Post reporter Cory Gunkel contributed to this report.

About Tim Reeves

Tim Reeves, and his wife Stephanie, are the parents of three children, Sarah Cameron, Clayton and Fin, who all attend school in the Vicksburg Warren School District. The family are members of First Baptist Church Vicksburg. Tim is involved in a number of civic and volunteer organizations including the United Way of West Central Mississippi and serves on the City of Vicksburg's Riverfront Redevelopment Committee.

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