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Flu season hitting Louisiana hard

Influenza has apparently hit one Washington Parish elementary school harder than most.

Enon Elementary School Principal Jacqueline Boone said her school has been hit hard by the illness. The school has 274 students.

“We do have the flu going around,” Boone said on Friday. “In two days last week, we had 30 kids out each day. It’s a pretty good many of students who are affected. And teachers, too.”

One class of 17 students at Enon had eight students absent last Wednesday because of illness.

“We’re not sure if everyone in that class had the flu, but some did,” Boone said.

According to Bogalusa pediatrician Dr. Tony Palazzo, Louisiana and Washington Parish are in the midst of a flu epidemic.

“We’ve had many positive flu exams, like 20 or 30 per day in the last week and a half,” Palazzo said. “Louisiana is the highest state in the country with flu cases. We do have a full-blown epidemic.”

Palazzo offered some simple tips to try and ward off the illness.

He recommended getting the flu shot or nose spray, wash hands thoroughly and don’t drink after anyone.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu cases in Louisiana were elevated this past week with four of five jurisdictions reporting regional or widespread activity.

Officials at other schools stopped short of labeling the illness as the flu. Principals at Pine, Mount Hermon and Wesley Ray said some students were out of school last week as a result of viruses and bronchitis.

Other school principals took the more cautious approach.

“We’ve got no confirmed cases of the flu, but we’ve had some students out with stomach viruses and some out with bronchitis, or something like that,” Mount Hermon Principal Pauline Kennedy said. “I’ve had it, and we’ve had two or three teachers out with the virus. We also have a secretary out with it. Once it hits the little ones, it hits them hard.”

Wesley Ray Elementary School Principal Kewanda August Bickham said a few students checked out Thursday with flu-like symptoms.

“We sent home a few kids today who were throwing up,” Bickham said on Thursday. “We sent four kids home, but only one with the flu. An epidemic, I can’t say that.”

Pine School Principal Jennifer Thomas is counting her blessings. She suffered a bout with bronchitis over the past weekend.

“We’re actually good,” Thomas said. “My son had a little virus that was going around and was sent home. We had two students with fever Thursday. Absentees have been about the same. It’s not like when we had the swine flu.”