More than 5 percent of the students at William Kelley Schools in Silver Bay were absent Tuesday, Jan. 23, with flu-like symptoms.
The school nurse at WKS submitted a report to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) saying eight of 147 high school students were out with "influenza-like illness (ILI)," which is defined as a fever of 100 degrees or greater and a cough or sore throat. In one elementary class, three of 14 students were absent with ILI, which is also considered outbreak levels.
The outbreak fits in with a wider flu epidemic across Minnesota, which shows more schools hitting the threshold in 2018 than it has seen since the 2014-15 flu season, according the MDH's weekly influenza and respiratory illness activity report for Jan. 13. That report showed 72 new outbreaks in Minnesota last week and 115 since the start of the season, defined by MDH as October through April.
Doug Schultz of the MDH communications office said the statistics from Jan. 20 are not yet available, but the upward trend for outbreaks continued last week.
Superintendent Bill Crandall said Minnehaha Elementary School in Two Harbors reached outbreak levels two weeks ago and is still seeing students and staff out with ILI. While there have been a number of absences with ILI at Two Harbors High School, the reporting threshold has not yet been met there.
"This is the most significant flu season in the previous five to six years here as well as statewide," Crandall said in an email. "According to the Department of Health, the vaccine is not as effective as they had hoped. Still those that have received a flu shot have been less affected by the flu."
MDH recommends parents stay home with kids if they are sick and ensure that they get plenty of rest and fluids.
In addition, parents should call their doctor if their child is breathing rapidly or with difficulty, has bluish skin color, become dehydrated or if they get better only to get sick again.
Finally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends parents keep their children out of school until 24 hours after they are fever-free.