Flu causes high absence rates in Greenville schools

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Greg Beckner/File

Several schools in Greenville County have reported higher than normal absence rates in the last couple of weeks as the flu virus makes its way through the state.

The absence rate was at least 10 percent higher than normal at Augusta Circle Elementary, Greenville Early College, Sue Cleveland Elementary, and Monarch Elementary on various days last week.

Schools are required to notify the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control once student absences reach 10 percent above the school’s normal absence rate.

Augusta Circle had returned to a normal rate of absence by Feb. 7, but the other three schools received antiviral cleanings on Feb. 9 to help kill the flu virus.

Although Woodmont Middle and Skyland Elementary were not above the 10 percent threshold, they also received antiviral cleanings because of a high number of absences.

Beth Brotherton, spokesperson for the district, said more students have started coming back to school this week, but schools are still experiencing a large number of absences.

Brotherton said about a quarter of the students absent from Augusta Circle on Feb. 4 were out because of the flu, but parents aren’t required to tell the school why their students are absent.

“Usually we don’t know if they are illness-related until a student returns with a doctor’s note,” Brotherton said.

Shannon Forest Christian School, a private K-12 school in Greenville, closed school on Feb. 8 because of a high number of students with the flu, according to the school’s Facebook page, although it didn’t reach the 10 percent threshold.

The most recent flu surveillance report from DHEC — for the week of Jan. 27 to Feb. 2 — shows an increase in influenza activity across the state from prior weeks.
The report said there have been 25 influenza deaths this flu season and 915 hospitalizations.

Prisma Health—Upstate has asked that anyone 18 or younger and anyone showing symptoms of flu-like illnesses refrain from visiting patients in the hospital. Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System has also asked that people refrain from visiting to limit the spread of the flu.

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