More than 150 students at an Illinois middle school call out sick due to flu outbreak

Nearly 200 students at an Illinois middle school called out sick last week due to a flu outbreak.

On Tuesday, 158 preteens at South Middle School in Arlington Heights called out with possible flu cases and 23 others were sent home.

By Wednesday, the number of students out jumped to 185 and another seven were told to go home. 

Officials say that’s more than 20 percent of the school’s population of 884 kids, reported CBS Chicago.

It comes amid fears that the deadlier H3N2 strain has begun to spread. It’s not clear what strain is responsible for this outbreak, but health officials warn that anyone who has not been vaccinated take preventative measures to avoid getting sick. 

On Tuesday, 158 students at South Middle School in Arlington Heights, Illinois (pictured), called out with possible flu cases. On Wednesday, that number jumped to 185, which is more than 20 percent of the school’s population 

A South Middle School spokesman said it’s not clear how many of the call-outs are actual flu cases but, so far, 30 students have been confirmed to have influenza A.

School administrators sent letters to parents urging them to keep their children home from school if they’re sick.

This includes if they have symptoms such as a sore throat, an ear ache, runny nose, coughing or a temperature of 99.5F or higher.  

‘Encourage your student to take care of their needs and respect the needs of others by following these guidelines,’ the letter read in part, according to CBS Chicago. 

The letter also said the school’s custodial team is disinfecting certain areas of the school more frequently in an attempt to control the outbreak. 

‘Several of our teachers had students using their school supplies wipes to address personal items and surfaces around them in the classroom/lockers,’ the letter read.

The school will also be planning on teaching students preventative measures such as washing hands and using hand sanitizer. 

Parents say they’re worried about the uptick in cases and that the outbreak could spread even further.

‘The school is a big petri dish, and if one kid comes to school sick, it kind of just snowballs,’ Robert Smith, a parent at South Middle School, told CBS Chicago.

‘I think the important thing is that the parents learn that, as much as it’s convenient to send your kid to school, because of whatever arrangement you have at home, it’s more important to keep them home to get well, and not infect other kids.’ 

Last week, Chicago officials announced the city’s first pediatric flu death and third overall in Illinois of the 2018-19 season. 

No information regarding the victim’s name, age or sex have been released by the health department.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed last week that 19,000 deaths have been recorded so far for the 2018-19 flu season.

It’s considerably lower than the more than 80,000 Americans who died the previous season, 179 of which were children.

The CDC said 80 percent of the children who died were not vaccinated. 

Additionally, the National Institutes of Health said this year’s flu shot is 47 percent effective overall and 61 percent effective for children between ages six months and 17 years old compared with 30 percent overall last year. 

However, a weekly report released by the CDC on Friday showed that the second half of this season could be much more deadly.

The report revealed that, two weeks ago, one in 20 doctor’ visits were flu-related, which is much higher than normal.