RIPLEY, Ohio – With the flu and a stomach bug going around, sixth-grader Spencer Gray was sick last week and missed two days of school.
He got another “sick day” Wednesday because dozens of other kids and faculty were sick and officials closed the whole district for the day.
Combined with the Presidents Day holiday, Spencer couldn’t believe his luck as he spent the morning with his grandpa instead of his teachers.
"The best week ever!" Spencer said.
But it’s no laughing matter for Linda Naylor, superintendent of Ripley-Union-Lewis-Huntington Schools.
Sickness has shuttered schools in Brown County.
“We have been struggling with illness for several weeks,” Naylor said. “Right now it's really hitting the middle school hard.”
Sixty students were sick at Ripley-Union-Lewis-Huntington Middle School Tuesday. That’s 22 percent of the student body of 275.
Across the district, 15 staff were out sick.
Flu cases are up in Ohio this month, but what’s hitting Brown County might be a perfect storm.
“I think what we're seeing here, it's not completely all flu,” Naylor said. “There's a really nasty stomach bug that's a 24-48 hour variety that's going through, and then we seem to have a lot of bronchitis and respiratory illnesses going through.”
Naylor said the staff was there Tuesday night scrubbing down the school.
“It's kind of to the point that I said, 'What else can they do today?' Because they were going through last night cleaning and disinfecting and just trying to make sure we keep the germs down,” she said.
Spencer said getting a sick day because someone else was sick is “pretty cool.” The district sent out word Tuesday night.
“I've never heard anybody doing that, so I just stayed up the rest of the night playing video games,” Spencer said.
His grandpa, David Gray, was looking for something to do with him Wednesday.
“I'm going to turn him over to his grandmother,” Grandpa said.
Flu has had a limited impact on Southwest Ohio, but not so around the state, according to health officials.
About 2,600 Ohioans have been hospitalized by the flu, but only 43 in our area as of last week, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
Several schools around Ohio have had to close because of illness, according to ODH's Melanie Amato.
It's still peak flu season, so Amato recommends getting a flu shot (it's not too late), wash your hands and stay home if you're not feeling well.