Schools report high absenteeism as flu activity picks up in metro

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OLATHE, Kan. -- The flu is picking up steam in the metro. The Johnson County Health Department says seven schools in the county had high numbers of students out sick on Monday with flu-like symptoms or gastrointestinal illness. Children's Mercy Hospital says it saw nearly 150 kids who tested positive for the flu last week.

Januel Noriega had a fever of 104 last week.

"I couldn't stop it, so I decided to take him to the hospital to see what was going on 'cause he wouldn't eat or nothing," said his mother, Erika Guerrero.

She was told it was flu.

The Johnson County Health Department says seven schools in four districts reported absenteeism above 10 percent on Monday.

"Their absenteeism rate is ranging from 11 to 24 percent, and these are children with influenza-like symptoms," said Lougene Marsh, health department director, adding there is also some GI illness.

The Shawnee Mission School District says it has three of the schools with higher absenteeism, and that it sent out notices to parents on Monday.

Januel's baby sister got some vaccines at the health department, but she's too young to get a flu shot. Marsh says the rest of us shouldn't delay since the virus is here, and Christmas, a prime time for spreading illness, is just a little over two weeks away.

"Knowing that the vaccine take about two weeks for the immunity to build up in your system," Marsh said.

The Centers for Disease Control says this year's vaccine won't be as effective because the current strain of the virus has mutated. Still, Marsh says vaccination remains your best defense. It's something that Guerrero recognizes.

"Not vaccinated. It was my fault," she said, referring to Januel.

She says she was worried her other children would get the flu, too, They have no signs so far.

The Johnson County Health Director says if you have symptoms such as fever and extreme fatigue, contact your doctor about getting antiviral medicine such as Tamiflu.

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