Flu closes 1 area school

NORTHROP – St. James Lutheran School in Northrop canceled classes Monday and remained closed today because of an outbreak of influenza in the student population.

Laurie Quinn, school board member at St. James Lutheran, said 27 percent of students were absent Friday, prompting the closure.

The school’s decision comes during a serious and widespread outbreak of the flu in southern Minnesota.

Experts released information last week indicating this area of the state has been hit harder than others, and many medical facilities have limited visitors to slow the spread of the virus.

Many area schools reported a high flu occurrence in students before Christmas break, but no problems since starting back up two weeks ago.

“It was [more prevalent] early on,” said Tate Jerome, principal at Truman Public Schools, “but it isn’t as bad now.”

Charles Lieder, interim principal at St. Paul Lutheran School in Fairmont, echoed the sentiment.

“We have a few kids out,” he said. “It is better than it was before Christmas.”

St. John Vianney School in Fairmont hasn’t seen much illness this season, said Deb Baldus, school secretary.

The break kept students from spreading the virus to each other, but it is still out there.

Jerome said his district has more trouble with teachers out sick than students at the moment. Finding substitutes has been a challenge.

Influenza is an upper respiratory disease, although the term “flu” is often used to refer to a gastrointestinal illness as well.

Flu-like symptoms include a fever, muscle aches and a cough.

The Minnesota Department of Health advises parents to keep children home if they exhibit a fever above 100 degrees and either a sore throat, cough, or both.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported a decrease in flu cases over the past three weeks, but cautions that incidence of the virus can increase and decrease throughout the season, which typically peaks in February.