More than 100 students and staff at an elementary school in Washington state have reported becoming ill with a nasty norovirus, forcing the school district to close the school for a deep-cleaning.
According to a tweet from Seattle Public Schools, Leschi Elementary will be closed on Friday so staff can go through and clean the school because of the stomach flu outbreak.
"Leschi Elementary School will be closed tomorrow, Friday December 13 due to an outbreak of Norovirusm," the Seattle Public School District tweeted on Thursday. "The school will be closed for cleaning and no staff or students can be in the building, per the King County Health Department. We anticipate the school will reopen on Monday."
Other campuses in the school district have also been closed for cleaning, including Washington Elementary School, which was cleaned and disinfected on Wednesday after more than 50 students reported being sick. The district is also monitoring another elementary school where another 40 students have reported becoming ill.
“There have not been other reports of a greater-than-normal number of cases of illness among students and staff at any other school in the district,” SPS spokesperson Tim Robinson told KING-TV.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said flu season has come early this year thanks to a nasty strain of the bug not nomally seen until the spring. According to figures released by the agency last week, more than 1.7 million flu illnesses, 16,000 hospitalizations, and 910 flu-related deaths in the United States have been reported in 2019 so far.
Experts at the CDC say the last flu season to begin this early was in 2003-2004, with cases in the South spreading broadly, meaning flu season could peak far earlier than normal. Another surprise for health officials is the strain of the flu, a version that is typically found much later in the year, in March or April. The virus circulating isn't as dangerous as some strains that go around for the elderly, however, the illness can be difficult for children and those under 50.
"Nationally, influenza B/Victoria viruses are the most commonly reported influenza viruses among children age 0-4 years (46% of reported viruses) and 5-24 years (60% of reported viruses)," the CDC states on its website.
Health officials say the best way to protect yourself from getting sick is to get the flu vaccine as well as wash your hands and avoid touching your face, which can reduce the risk of the potentially dangerous complications due to the illness.