FAIRFIELD — Camas County School reopened Monday after a flu outbreak prompted a two-day closure.
School officials decided to close its campus Thursday and Friday. The decision was made mid-day Wednesday after 30 percent of the student body and more than half its elementary school staff was home sick with the flu.
“Obviously, it’s something you just can’t ignore,” Superintendent Jim Cobble said.
With so many teachers out sick and relying heavily on substitutes, “it’s hard to provide the quality of education with someone who’s not a trained educator,” Cobble said.
The Fairfield school has about 150 students from kindergarten through 12th grades. While the school was closed, the custodial staff — plus additional hired staff — came in to attempt to sanitize the entire building, Cobble said.
Camas County is the only south-central Idaho school to have a flu-related closure this year. But whooping cough cases have been confirmed within the last month in Twin Falls, Kimberly and Minidoka County schools, although none have closed.
Idaho public health officials are worried about an uptick in influenza-related deaths so far this season, the most in seven years. In total, 51 flu-related deaths have been reported — largely, among those 50 and older — and five cases were here in south-central Idaho.
In Fairfield, the majority of students sick with the flu were back at school Monday. There was one new illness among a staff member, Cobble said, but he doesn’t know whether it’s the flu.
The school provides immunization opportunities for students and employees, Cobble said, but it’s unknown how many decided to get the flu vaccination.
It’s not just Fairfield or Idaho affected by a rough flu season. In northern Idaho, Kellogg School District campuses were closed for three days and activities were canceled in mid-January due to a flu outbreak.
Nationwide, flu activity has been widespread in every state except Hawaii.
“This year’s flu season got off to an early start,” according to a Jan. 20 Associated Press story, “and it’s been driven by a nasty type of flu that tends to put more people in the hospital and cause more deaths than other common flu bugs.”