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Green Country schools hit hard during flu season

Posted at 9:48 PM, Feb 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-22 10:37:31-05

WAGONER, Okla. -- Oklahoma reports its first pediatric flu death today, while several school districts are falling victim to the sickness forcing to close doors to sanitize.

The Tulsa County Health Department provided nearly 14,000 flu shots so far this season.

"Typically people who have flu normally have fever, headache, sore throat, cough, and a lot of people complain of fatigue and muscle ache as well," said Jessica Rice, an Epidemiology Supervisor with Tulsa County.

Five Green Country schools closed for at least a day in the past month. Indianola had 20 percent of their students and staff absent, Grand View school in Tahlequah, Braggs, Okmulgee, and Locust Grove.

"We have to wash our hands, and how do we cough, cover your mouth," said Jacob Pendergrass, a student at Wagoner schools.

The latest to feel the pinch is Wagoner schools. They closed earlier this week on Tuesday because of illnesses in the district.

100 students were absent a few days in mid-January from North Elementary in Bixby. While they didn’t close, 15 to 20 percent of their population was missing, compared the usual five percent.

"We’ve got a standard practice like most schools do, where we’ll come in and wipe down desks, be a little more diligent on how we clean our restrooms, our common areas, and classrooms," said Rob Miller, Superintendent of Bixby Public Schools.

The low attendance could hurt finances with state aid primarily based on head count. Oklahoma is also in the middle of a substitute shortage.

"When the flu comes through or something else and we have a higher number, then it becomes even more difficult, we’re having to ask teachers to cover on their plan period or have teacher assistance cover classes," said Miller.

Many schools urge parents to keep their kids home if they’re sick to prevent any germs from spreading.

According to the Tulsa County Health Department, they've seen six deaths and 316 hospitalizations from flu-related illnesses this year.

In 2017 to 2018, they had 53 deaths and 1,171 hospitalizations. Going back another year from 2016 to 2017, Tulsa County reported 23 deaths and 557 hospitalizations.

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