Respiratory Infection Closes Schools

Hundreds of kids in East Texas are coming down with something, causing one local school district to close classrooms for the next several days. Over 250 students stayed away from Winona Schools today. The district is trying to cut down on the rate of infection by keeping kids at home for the next three days.

This afternoon, students changed the sign in front of Winona High School to spread the word. Superintendent Charles Thompson says school is closed Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

"We decided to shut down school again, starting tomorrow morning until Friday morning to give the kids three more days at home to see if we can break this flu epidemic."

One out of every four kids is sick. Some classrooms today were half empty, even after Thompson cancelled school the first time last week. "Last Thursday afternoon, I cancelled school a day, and then that included Friday, Saturday, Sunday. We thought that would break the cycle. But today, our absentee was double what it was last Thursday."

Winona Mother Amy Sammons thinks the Superintendent made the right call. "I subbed today and there's only like six at the end of the day. And, half of them were wanting to go home anyway because they were all sick."

Many parents agree with the decision to stop school. Marita Rudd picked up a car load of kids Monday afternoon in the Winona Elementary parking lot. "I've got one kid home sick. I'm hoping she doesn't get it. And, the two I baby sit, one's already sick with it. So, I don't know, I think maybe it's a good idea we go ahead and just shut it down. If we have to make it up at the end of the year, it will be worth it I guess."

Regina Hollie's high school age son had the illness last week. "Even I feel bad since I've been around my son, so I know it's contagious. I still feel kind of achy from just taking care of him."

While the kids are out, Winona will disinfect all of the classrooms, hallways, and ventilation systems in hopes more students are able to come back healthy on Friday.

Neighboring Lindale I.S.D. says 18% of it's student body is also out sick. Lindale has not cancelled classes, but they will keep an eye on the problem.

Channel Seven's Doctor Ed says the disease that's the likely cause of the epidemic is an upper respiratory infection called "Microplasma."

"It doesn't have to stay in the body very long before the infection kicks in. Generally less than a week. So, you get a lot of people sick at the same time. And, as that number goes up, the number of people who are likely to be exposed also goes up."

If you or your children still need a flu shot the Smith County Health Clinic is offering flu shots for ten dollars. You can get the immunization at the Smith County Health Center at 815 North Broadway. Shots are available from 8AM until 10AM between now and Thanksgiving.