After more than 160 students called out sick from Carmel Christian School in Matthews, North Carolina with flu-like symptoms on Tuesday, the school elected to close its doors for the rest of the week. School officials told local station WHIOTV that this was the first school cancellation due to illness in the school’s history. Specifically, school officials decided to take drastic measure not only because of the number of students affected, but because the virus spreading this flu season is unusually virulent and threatens the safety of young children.
Given the upcoming extended weekend for Martin Luther King Jr. day, school administrators said closing shop on Thursday and Friday was will provide students who have gotten sick more time to recover. Closing the school’s doors will prevent totally healthy kids from getting sick as well. According to a national report from CBS News and local reports from across the country, this year’s flu season is hitting children and babies particularly hard. While there are not current statistics available showing the degree to which the virus has had an outsized impact on younger children, there is anecdotal reason to believe it has. This factored into the reasoning at Carmel Christian, which is, unusually, a K-12 school. The potential exposure of younger students to the virus — and their potentially to smear it all over everything — weighed in the decision.
H3N2, the most common flu strain this year, has historically resulted in higher death rates, specifically among children, babies, and older adults. Despite “the flu” being discussed in broad terms as an annual event, not all flus are created equal and H3N2 is a particularly variant. Some 13 American children have already died from the flu this season.