BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Once again the flu virus has taken hold of the Gulf Coast. This time, it has its sights set on the school systems.
Inside schools across the Gulf Coast, attendance is down because the flu or flu-like illnesses are up.
Todd Boucher, principal of Popp’s Ferry Elementary School in Biloxi, said his school has been hit hard.
“We have had a significant number of students that have left with the flu. We have had approximately 66 students that were absent. Not all of them had the flu, but it was a high number. We had five go home today with the flu, and ironically, our nurse went home today to be tested for the flu,” Boucher said.
It’s a similar story in other districts. Long Beach schools have had 192 confirmed cases of the flu since Christmas break.
Officials with the Bay-Waveland School District said a second round of illness has now hit. The Pascagoula-Gautier School District nurse Diane Chaney said the flu has hit schools across the district, and it seems to be worse at elementary schools. Absentees are usually at five percent across the district; in Gautier just during the past week, it has risen to 10-12 percent.
School leaders said custodial teams have concentrated their responsibilities on outbreak prevention.
“Right now, they’re also focusing on wiping down handles, wiping down keyboards of computers and wiping down the desks. Just little things anywhere that the students come in contact that may have the flu virus to try to be as proactive as we can,” Boucher said.
Carmen Davis, a registered nurse with Biloxi Public Schools, said that you should be on the lookout for more than one symptom.
“There are lots of different signs that you can tell that a person may be coming down with symptoms of the flu, which could be a fever, general aches and pains and just not feeling well all over,” she said.
Davis said the flu vaccine is a great way to prevent the flu or lessen its severity.
Remember to wash your hands often and avoid close contact with anyone showing flu-like symptoms. If you think you might have the flu, stay home from work and school and cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing.