Flu Epidemic Closes Two East Texas Schools

Everyone in East Texas knows someone who has been sick recently, students and co-workers alike. And we were curious to know why. Thursday, as KLTV was interviewing Med Team doctor Ed Dominguez about this, we received calls from two East Texas schools, saying they are canceling classes because of it. KLTV 7's Tracy Watler brings us the latest on this flu epidemic that's sweeping through East Texas.

Student at St. Gregory's Catholic School in Tyler color away, working hard on the latest school project, but Friday, it'll be a different story. That's because classes have been canceled for half the day and Monday.

"We have over 40 students out today. That number has been increasing every day. That is over 10 percent of our population and whenever our numbers get that high we have to ask ourselves how are we going to break this cycle? says Patty Britain, Assistant Principal of St. Gregory's Catholic School.

The cycle she's talking about is influenza, and doctors say they're seeing a lot of it.  It's certainly skyrocketed in Brownsboro, where every day this week, more than 500 out of 2700 students have missed school, home sick with the flu. They too have canceled school for Friday, hoping a three day weekend will stop the disease.

"We've got too many out to teach really effectively, a lot of stuff when they get back has to get repeated when they back or they're behind," says Superintendent Elton Caldwell.

Even Med Team Doctor Ed Dominguez has three of his four kids out of school.

"My children have had to stay home during the week because of the same thing, and we're seeing that throughout the schools, and ideally that really is the most responsible thing to do," he says.

Staying home, that's the first step in prevention.  Other tips include getting a second vaccination, taking drugs like TamiFlu, limiting contact with those who are sick, and of course washing your hands often.

"Everybody is getting sick now because number one the vaccine we gave people early on in September and October is starting to wear off."

And he adds, it'll continue for the next three to four weeks, but he says there's no doubt, we reached the peak this week, and it's all down hill from here.

Dr. Ed says we see flu epidemics like this one, about every three to four years.  Flu season ends in March.

Tracy Watler, Reporting tracy@kltv.com