Influenza the culprit for several school closures throughout region

Posted at 6:16 PM, Feb 04, 2020

CINCINNATI — Several local schools in the Greater Cincinnati area have opted to close down for disinfecting thanks to influenza plaguing classrooms and hallways.

Most schools have reconvened, and districts like Wilmington Schools are on the mend -- but just last week, administrators ordered everyone to stay home after too many students and employees were getting sick.

"It really hit our staff really hard and we had issues trying to get everybody staffed enough, get enough teachers," said Curt Bone, director of business operations with Wilmington City Schools. "This is the first time since I've been here in 16 years that we've ever had to do this."

Bone said the teachers were hit the hardest, with around 30 of them out last Thursday. Other school districts like Reading, Three Rivers and a few in Northern Kentucky have been doing their best to battle back the illness as well.

Wilmington City Schools used an electrostatic cleaning machine to spray down all surfaces in the school, cleaning daily since the flu cases began to rise. This has also included a thorough cleaning of their school buses.

"Just reminders to wash your hands and with the time being off, that people clean their backpacks and everything else while they're at home," said Bone.

Cincinnati Children's Hospital sees its fair share of flu cases every year as well. Dr. Josh Schaffzin believes that community elements could be a reason schools need to close.

"In terms of overall numbers, it's similar to previous seasons," he said. "In terms of hospitalizations, it's similar to other seasons. I think we're just seeing a lot of community illness this year."

Schaffzin also said it's never too late to get the flu shot to help cut down on the community effect of passing the flu around.

"So if you think about the flu vaccine, it's kind of like a seatbelt," said Dr. Schaffzin. "A seatbelt won't prevent an accident, but it will prevent you from getting hurt in an accident, so the flu vaccine works that way."

In the meantime, Wilmington City Schools is continuing to clean nearly everything, with specific focus on things most people touch, like door handles, restrooms, tables and desk tops. The good news is that flu cases for the district are winding down.

Ohio's flu season, as of last week, is in the moderate range, while Kentucky and Indiana are high, according to the Center for Disease Control.