UPDATE: Flu Again Closes Martin County Schools

By: WSAZ News Staff Email
By: WSAZ News Staff Email

UPDATE 1/16/13 @ 9:30 a.m.
INEZ, Ky. (WSAZ) -- For the second week in a row, Martin County has cancelled classes due to the flu.

In fact, they are one of several school districts that will be shut down the rest of the week due to sickness.

About 800 students in the Martin County School District were absent from school Tuesday, despite the district cancelling classes last week because of illness.

“I think that we were probably a little optimistic in trying to come back so soon. It was bad last week but we thought the worst would be behind us,” said District Technology Coordinator Roscoe Mullins.

Attendance is usually about 94 percent but last week, attendance rates dropped to 80 percent. This week it dropped again to 70 percent.

“We have dealt with health and medical issues before but not to this degree,” said Martin County Schools Superintendent Mark Blackburn.

The superintendent says it is difficult for teachers to teach and students to learn when hundreds of kids call in sick.

“You have to consider just how ineffective teaching can be when absenteeism is so high. What can the teachers really do with so many students out? Hopefully this is the best solution for everybody,” said Mullins.

Local health officials say it's still not too late to get a flu shot.

Martin County Schools will be back on the regular schedule on Tuesday. Schools are closed Monday for Martin Luther King Day.

Lawrence, Johnson and Magoffin Counties are also closed the rest of the week due to illness.

UPDATE 1/14/13 @ 5:55 p.m.
ASHLAND, Ky. (WSAZ) -- James Pope was rolling up his sleeve for a flu shot at the Ashland Boyd County Health Department.

"I've had a stroke," Pope said. "I want to be protected because I'm not ready to die just yet."

It's hard to say if there's widespread flu or the demand is just high," Health Department Director Kristy Bolen said. "It may seem bad because we' d had relatively mild influenza seasons the last few years."

Kentucky is one of more than 40 states reporting widespread flu activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It's hitting especially hard in other parts of the country.

"We gave out our last flu shot this morning," says Ron Elders with the Lawrence County (Ky.) Health Department. "We had about 800 doses this year, and they're gone. Once the national news showcased how widespread flu is this year, the demand really shot up."

The Lawrence County Health Department has ordered more doses of the vaccine and was hoping for a shipment of 50 to be delivered late Monday."

"The demand has been high," said Paul Hunt with the Greenup County Health Department. "We've already dispensed close to 1,600 doses."

To help meet the demand, the Greenup County Health Department has scheduled an impromptu walk-in vaccination clinic from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15.

INEZ, Ky. (WSAZ) -- There's a lot of sniffing and sneezing in Martin County, Ky.

The flu outbreak has shut down schools through the rest of the week, as crews try to disinfect classrooms.

"We're all trying to do the best we can," Inez Elementary School Principal Mike Cassidy said. "There's no getting away from it because the virus and germs are around you."

Sitting home with her sick 4-year-old child was Danielle Fletcher. She had her fingers crossed, but she feels it's just a matter of time before she'll get sick, too.

"We're up all night with the constant sneezing and coughing," Fletcher said. "When I took him to the doctor yesterday, his fever wasn't up when we got there. But then by the time they took him back it was it shot right up to 103 to 104 degrees.

The Martin County Health Department isn't immune. The department's director was just back on the job Thursday after flu-like symptoms hit hard over the weekend. Stephen Ward is urging parents to keep sick children home.

"It's critical we bring this to and end," Ward said. "Please make sure your child is symptom free from fever, vomiting or diarrhea for at least 24 hours before bringing them back to school."

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