Ashe County Schools were closed today (Friday) for students and teachers “due to the increase in the flu outbreak at all schools,” according to the school system's website.

Ashe School Superintendent Phyllis Yates was quoted in media reports as saying about 450 students were out sick with Type A flu from the system's five schools and early learning center earlier this week, with nearly 40 more sent home from school. Yates also said about 30 teachers are out sick and substitutes couldn't be found to replace them

Sports activities in the Ashe schools and the county’s parks and recreation department were also cancelled Friday through Sunday. “Having games in our facilities defeats the purpose of stopping the spread of flu. Sports activities outside the county are allowed IF that county still wants to host the event knowing our flu situation,” stated the website.

The Ashe school website said deep cleaning and disinfecting is being performed Friday at all Ashe schools to help stop the spread of type “A” flu germs. Ashe school officials are staying in close contact with the Ashe County Health Department and “are doing all the right things to help curb this epidemic.”

The website continued, “Please take this three-day opportunity to help us prevent the spread of flu. If you are sick or have flu-like symptoms, talk to your health-care provider and stay home to avoid spreading it to others. Take care and let’s hope by Monday everyone is feeling much better and that we can get back into our daily routines.”

The flu season typically runs from Oct. 1 through March 31. Groups of people particularly vulnerable to the flu are adults over age 65, children under 5, pregnant women, those with pre-existing health conditions, and residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities

According to data released Thursday on the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services website, 35 people in the state have died from the flu this season. This does not represent all flu-associated deaths in the state, since many go undiagnosed or unreported.

The department does not release victims’ hometown, county, age or gender for privacy reasons, but 26 of the victims were ages 65 or older. Six were in the 50-to-64 age range and three were in the 25-to-49 group.

"Flu will be circulating, and infection rates will likely remain high at least for the next several weeks," said State Epidemiologist Zack Moore, MD, MPH. "Getting vaccinated now is the best way to protect yourself and those you come in contact with."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends vaccination against the flu for everyone 6 months and older. In addition to reducing the risk of infection, vaccination against the flu can make illness milder for those who do get sick and reduces the risk of more serious outcomes. Flu vaccinations are available at hospitals, pharmacies, private medical offices, some federally qualified health care centers and local health departments.

The number of flu-associated deaths reported in North Carolina since 2009 has varied from nine during the 2011–12 season to 391 during the 2017–18 season.

The department says that everyone should use precautions to protect against the spread of flu and other viruses, including:

  • Wash hands frequently, preferably with soap and water or an approved hand sanitizer;
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then discard the tissue promptly; and
  • If you are sick with flu, staying home until you have been fever-free for at least 24 hours.

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