JEFFERSON — Approximately 330 Ashe County Schools students are absent with influenza-like illnesses as of 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, according to ACS Superintendent Phyllis Yates.

The bulk of the absences are at Ashe County Middle School, where 150 students are out sick, Yates said. At Blue Ridge Elementary, 66 students are absent, plus 45 absences at Westwood Elementary, 38 sick at Mountain View Elementary and 31 absent at the Ashe Early Learning Center, according to Yates.

In addition to the student absences, Yates said there were at least 8 confirmed cases of the flu in ACS faculty and teachers, with 10 faculty sick at ACMS and 3 sick at Westwood Elementary.

“When talking with the high school principal, she doesn’t see that there is enough flu there to really be concerned,” Yates said. “You also got to keep in mind we’re not really sure about those numbers, because not only is the flu going around, but we also have the stomach virus and strep throat.”

Yates said she has been in close contact with the Ashe County Health Department since Monday, when she was first made aware of the flu outbreak. According to Yates, ACS would only consider shutting down a school due to flu outbreak on the health department’s recommendation.

Ashe Post & Times reached out to AppHealthCare Public Health Director Jennifer Greene for comment, and is awaiting her response.

According to a flu outbreak update posted on the ACS website Wednesday, the outbreak is a strain of type A influenza, and staff members are using disinfectant wipes daily to clean commonly touched surfaces within the schools. Buses have also been equipped with disinfectant wipes, and school custodians are using extra precaution in cleaning and disinfecting bathrooms and cafeterias.

Sick children should be kept home until their fever has been gone for 24 hours, the ACS update said.

According to flu.nc.gov, influenza-like illness visits to N.C. medical centers have been on the rise since the week of Jan. 12, with 35 flu deaths in the state since Sept. 30, 2018.

“The most important thing is, if your child is sick and not feeling well, please keep them at home,” Yates said. “The other important thing is constant hand-washing with warm soap and water — hand sanitizer has not been effective.”

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