Stafford High School flu outbreak: Almost 1,000 students fall sick, health officials probing cause

The Stafford High School students had flu-like and gastrointestinal symptoms that has sparked worry among parents

Stafford High School flu outbreak: Almost 1,000 students fall sick, health officials probing cause
Almost 1,000 students fell sick at Stafford High School (Stafford High School/Facebook, Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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FREDERICKSBURG, VIRGINIA: A high school cancelled its weekend activities after almost half of the school’s crowd fell sick with flu-like and gastrointestinal symptoms. Stafford High School, located in northern Virginia, has approximately 2,100 students.

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According to The Daily Mail, an update from the the school’s Facebook page read, “Due to the high number of student and staff illnesses reported this week, all Stafford High School activities and athletics scheduled through Sunday, October 23, are canceled. We will reassess conditions on Monday and provide you with further information.” Commenting on the outbreak, Sandra K Osborn, chief communications officer with Stafford County Public Schools, said in a statement, "There are approximately 1,000 students absent with flu-like/gastrointestinal symptoms at Stafford High School. Our Health Services team is working with the local health department to identify the root cause of the illness."

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In a letter sent to parents and staff members on the evening of October 21, school principal Allen Hicks stated the school was currently experiencing an "illness outbreak." The school will remain open, and learning will continue, the letter stated as per Fox5. The principal said, "At this time, we do not anticipate closing the building. Learning will continue. Students will be given ample time to make up any missed work upon their return to school. We remained very concerned, and will continue to monitor the situation alerting you to any changes we may need to make to our operations. Our custodial staff will conduct an extensive and thorough wipe down of the entire school this evening. High-touch point area cleaning, along with electrostatic cleaning, will continue throughout the day and evening tomorrow." 

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However, Jerome Bell, a parent, shared his concerns with the school opening and said, as quoted by WUSA9, "Stafford County Schools, it is highly irresponsible for you to put our kids education and health at risk with the increased numbers of people contracting the virus over the last few weeks. Urgent Cares and ER have had wait times of more than 5 hours for days now. Your decision to continue with a standard school opening is absurd."

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Similar outbreak in San Diego

On the other hand, state health officials are looking for the cause of the outbreak, according to The Daily Mail. However, a similar outbreak took place at Patrick Henry High School in San Diego. Dr Cameron Kaiser, county deputy public health officer said at that time, "We are coordinating with local school districts and are checking with other school campuses to try and figure out why so many students have been affected so suddenly. Unfortunately, we anticipated this would be a rough influenza season, and alongside COVID-19, other respiratory viruses are also making a rapid comeback. If you haven't already, now is the time to get your flu and COVID-19 shots to gain the extra protections afforded by the vaccines," he said, as per KPBS.

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