The Greenfield Exempted Village School District closed on Friday due to “widespread cases of influenza,” according to a post on the district’s Facebook page.
The post added that all Friday through Sunday events and practices have been cancelled.
“We are working with the Highland County Health Department in order to ensure that our campuses are properly sanitized and ready for students and staff to return to school on Monday,” the district said.
Last Friday, Miami Trace Local in Fayette County and Fairfield Local closed due to excessive illness-related absences.
Fairfield Local’s website stated that 20 percent of its elementary students were absent on Jan. 16, and middle school and high school absences continued to rise. Classes resumed on Tuesday following Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner told The Times-Gazette that the health department met with both Highland County schools on Thursday of this week.
“Fairfield’s elementary absences have gone down; they’ve had a little bit of increase in their middle school and high school. We invited Greenfield because we knew they were having some of the same problems,” Warner said. “We talked through sanitation practices and CDC guidelines for cleaning rooms. The schools really are doing a great job. They’re doing the right level of cleaning and sanitation. They know their stuff, and they’re working hard at it, so hats off to them.
“But when you have that many kids spending that much time closely together, that’s where you get a lot of these illnesses that keep popping up. I think that’s Greenfield’s hope: throw an extra day on the weekend and cancel events, which I think is very smart. We’re giving everybody a chance to get some space, hopefully get our number of flu cases down, and get back to school a little healthier on Monday.”
Warner said there was a significant spike in flu cases in December.
“We were pretty on-track with the five-year average up until the last week in December, when we saw a really significant spike in Ohio in flu cases really increasing a lot more than what we normally see,” Warner said. “Last year we had a weird season where the second spike of the flu was bigger than the first, so you never know what’s going to come down.”
Warner said there have been seven flu-related hospitalizations in Highland County this flu season, which began around Thanksgiving. He added that it’s probable that there were others that weren’t officially categorized as flu-related.
Warner encouraged people to get their flu vaccines.
”It’s quite possible that somebody could get Influenza B, be sick for a week, get better, and then get Influenza A afterward,” Warner said Friday. “You can get sick multiple times from the flu, depending on what strains are circulating. It’s still really important to get your vaccine. Not only is it less likely that you’ll get the flu in the first place, but then if you do, your symptoms will be much less severe if you had the flu shot. It’s not a perfect tool, but it’s the best tool we have right now to keep people healthy and to fight the flu.”
He said flu vaccines don’t just target last year’s flu strain — vaccines try to evolve with the flu.
“I continue to hear people say, ‘Why get the flu shot? That strain isn’t even covered.’ It absolutely is. The big one we’re seeing right now is the Influenza B-Victoria. It’s in the quadrivalent flu shot,” Warner said. “Because of the way the flu virus itself mutates throughout the year, scientists look really closely at the current strain and this flu season’s activity, and they’ll do some models to project what the flu is likely to look like next year. They’ll have about six to eight months to develop the vaccine for what they think the flu is going to be next year, so there is a little bit of a lag time because it takes so long to grow the vaccine.”
The flu vaccine doesn’t just protect individuals’ health, though.
“There’s always some question as to how effective the vaccine is — normally, it’s going to be between 40 and 60 percent,” Warner said. “This year, from what I’ve heard, it’s still in that range. If we can stop 60 percent of the community from getting the flu, that helps develop some of the herd immunity we’re always looking for.”
Warner added that those who are sick should cover their coughs and sneezes and stay home to prevent the flu from spreading further, and everyone should wash their hands.
The Highland County Health Department’s Care-A-Van, a mobile medical center, will be in various Highland County communities beginning Tuesday, Jan. 28 to offer flu vaccinations.
“We’re going to nine or 10 stops around the county several different days, so if someone has mobility problems or transportation issues, it’ll be a little easier for them to get their flu shot,” Warner said. “We don’t want anyone who wants their flu shot to not get it just because they can’t get a ride into the health department.”
There is no copay with most health insurances, but for those who don’t have health insurance, Warner said flu shots are $39.95.
Here is the Care-A-Van schedule:
Tuesday, Jan. 28
9 a.m. to 11 a.m. — Joey’s Pizza at Rocky Fork, 6941 SR 753 east of Hillsboro.
11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. — Carmel Market
2 p.m. to 3 p.m. — Marshall 1st Stop
Wednesday, Jan. 29
9 a.m. to 11 a.m. — Sugar Tree Ridge Community Building
11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. — Belfast School
2 p.m. to 3 p.m. — Berrysville Township Hall
Thursday, Jan. 30
9 a.m. to 11 a.m. — New Market Township House
11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. — Old Y Restaurant, located at 1940 U.S. 62
2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. — Mowrystown — Edgington Funeral Home
Friday, Jan. 31
9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. — Fairfield Local Schools, Fairfield Board Office
Tuesday, Feb. 4
9 a.m. to 11 a.m. — Buford Community Building
11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. — Lynchburg-Clay Elementary, 6760 SR 134 in Lynchburg.
2 p.m. to 3 p.m. — Lynchburg First Stop, 355 N. Main St. in Lynchburg.
For questions, call the Highland County Health Department at 937-393-1941.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.