Several school districts in Oklahoma and Texas will temporarily shut down to keep students from being exposed to this season’s unexpectedly virulent flu virus, H3N2. Their extreme caution may be warranted — the Oklahoma State Department reported that at least 22 people have died due to the flu this season, and at least 1,155 Texans have died due to either flu or pneumonia in recent months.
“As the number of confirmed cases of influenza grows, it is important to increase health and safety protocols for each campus, including disinfection of all buses and spaces,” Texas’ Bonham Independent School District officials wrote to parents, in a letter that explained the district’s decision to cancel class.
Six school districts in Oklahoma also closed their doors last week — Union City school districts for only one day, and Morris, Quinton, Swink, Hugo and Valliant Districts until at least January 23. In early January, Carmel Christian School in Matthews, North Carolina became one of the first schools to cancel class this flu season, after more than 160 students called out sick due to flu-like symptoms.
The end is not yet in sight. In fact, experts caution that this flu season could get even worse in the coming months, and that H3N2 may have now reached up to 49 states. “This is a season that has a lot more steam than we thought,” said Dr. Dan Jernigan of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.