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School closes for cleanup after flu sickens students, staff

HOPEWELL, Va. -- Students at West End Christian School in Hopewell have the week off from school, but many of them won't be having fun.

The private school made the decision to close for the week after so many students got sick with the flu.

"We were watching the numbers last week, knowing that we had some confirmed cases," West End Christian School Principal Amy Griggs said. "[When we started off the week] with about 15 percent of students absent first thing Monday morning -- and then sending home probably another 10 or 15 children with the same symptoms -- the fever -- then it's hitting 20 percent of our students we knew that it was getting bad and it was just going to get worse."

Griggs, who called this the worst flu season she's experienced as an educator, also got sick with the flu.

She got sick, along with a number of teachers and substitute teachers.

"It gets to the point when you just don't have enough," she said.

She cited lesson planning as another reason to close and allow the flu bug to pass.

"When you're teaching new lessons, if you have a third to a quarter of your students sitting in class and the rest are out, you're going to have to re-teach that material anyway," she said.

Amy Griggs

About 125 students, kindergarten through 12th grade, attend the school.

West End Christian School will reopen Tuesday, after the Presidents' Day holiday.

Teachers and custodial staff spent parts of Tuesday scrubbing down the school.

Griggs said response from parents has been positive and understanding.

Many other school system around Central Virginia have issued flu alerts to parents -- offering advice on ways to keep students healthy:

Encourage good hygienic practices

Wash hands with soap and water often, especially when exposed to someone who is sick

Cover your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing or use your inner arm (elbow crease), but do not use your hands.

Dispose of facial tissues that contain nasal secretions after each use. Wash hands afterwards.

Avoid touching the eyes, nose, or mouth.

Routinely clean commonly touched surfaces, toys, and other shared objects as recommended.

Stay home if ill

Individuals should stay home from school, work and errands when sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Ill students or staff should remain home until they are fever-free for a full 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing medication.

Encourage vaccination

The single best way to protect against flu is to get vaccinated each year.

Influenza vaccination is usually 70-90% effective in preventing the flu in healthy persons.

Receiving flu vaccine later in the season can still provide important protection since flu viruses can circulate as late as May.

Most individuals will be protected against influenza within 2 weeks after vaccination.

Antiviral medications

These may also be used to prevent or treat the flu - talk to your healthcare provider for more information.