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Flu Forces Clearwater School To Close

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
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The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The flu has forced one school in Pinellas County to close and others in the Tampa Bay area to send warnings home to parents.

Calvary Christian High School was closed Friday after more than 100 students and five teachers fell ill. Officials at the Clearwater private school were disinfecting the facility and planned to reopen on Monday. 

Pinellas County schools spokeswoman Lisa Wolf says there's also been an uptick in flu activity at public schools this year.

“We do rely on families self-reporting that information to our districts so we're not able to confirm it with 100 percent accuracy, but we are seeing an increase in the number of families that are telling us they are impacted by the flu,” Wolf said.

No public schools in Pinellas or Hillsborough have had to close due to the flu, but that’s not the case in other areas of the state.

The Gulf County school district in the Panhandle closed all of its schools on Friday because of the flu.  

Both Hillsborough and Pinellas county schools sent information home with students about the flu and flu vaccine. Officials say students are not allowed to come to school if they have a fever. 

There were 25 flu outbreaks recorded in Florida with another 27 reported outbreaks of influenza-like illnesses between Jan. 14 and Jan. 20, according to the Florida Department of Health.  

Nationally, 1 in 15 doctor visits were for symptoms of the flu last week. That's the highest level since the swine flu pandemic in 2009.

The Flu is widespread in every state except Hawaii, and 39 states reported high flu traffic for doctors last week, up from 32.

At this rate, by the end of the season somewhere around 34 million Americans will have gotten sick from the flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

Some good news: Hospital stays and deaths from the flu among the elderly so far haven't been as high as in some other recent flu seasons. However, hospitalization rates for people 50 to 64 — baby boomers, mostly — has been unusually high, CDC officials said in the report, which covers the week ending Jan. 20.

This year's flu shot targets the strains that are making Americans sick, mostly the H3N2 flu virus. But exactly how well it is working won't be known until next month. It's the same main bug from last winter, when the flu season wasn't so bad. It's not clear why this season — with the same bug — is worse, some experts said.

Based on patterns from past seasons, it's likely the flu season will start to wane soon, experts say. There are some places, like California, where the season already seems to be easing, CDC officials said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Julio Ochoa is editor of Health News Florida.