Flu blamed for more child deaths, school closures

More teachers and students are getting a day off because of the flu. This year’s bug is really tough on kids.

St. Thomas Aquinas in Dallas and Melissa ISD in Collin County are the latest to cancel classes because of the flu. Crews will be spending the day Friday disinfecting campuses.

Melissa ISD school officials say the middle school got hit the hardest. Teachers tried to minimize the spread of the virus by making sure kids were using hand sanitizer in places like the cafeteria and gym. But when dozens of students across all four campuses were going to the nurse’s office with flu-like symptoms, the decision was made to close the entire district on Friday and Monday.

11-year-old Nyomi Swanson knows just how bad the flu problem has gotten at Melissa ISD. she's one of an estimated 200 students out of 2,400 who’ve gotten the virus over the past few weeks.

“I didn't feel well,” she recalled. “So I went to the nurse and then she sent me home with a fever.”

The superintendent made the decision to close the district's four schools until Monday after attendance at two of the campuses dipped to around 80 percent. Parents were notified Thursday by email.

The district is cleaning and disinfecting the schools on a rotation. And despite classes being canceled, the superintendent decided to allow extracurricular activities to go on as planned, asking students and staffers who are sick to stay home.

The same scenario has played out at a number of other schools and school districts in North Texas recently where a large number of students and staff have been sick with the flu.

The outbreak accounts for more than 60 deaths in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus is also to blame for more than 30 pediatric deaths across the country.

That number is likely to rise. The CDC is expected to release new data on child flu deaths before the end of the day.

The CDC said more than 80 percent of the children who died from the flu last year were not vaccinated. Experts say even though this year’s vaccine is not very effective, it still helps and often the symptoms are not as severe.

At St. Thomas Aquinas, extracurricular activities have been canceled. But they have not been canceled in Melissa.

Students in other school districts are still required to turn in assignments even though their classes have been canceled.

Parents are encouraged to check with their school and school district for changes.