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Officials warn of flu outbreaks at W.Va. schools

Charleston Daily Mail photo by Craig Cunningham Breanna Sowards, an LPN at Family Care Health Center at Hills Plaza on Patrick Street, puts a bandage on the arm of Meredith Foster of Charleston after giving her a flu shot. Foster is four months pregnant. Pregnant women are at a higher risk for getting the flu, but research shows that only about half get flu shots.
Charleston Daily Mail photo by Craig Cunningham
Breanna Sowards, an LPN at Family Care Health Center at Hills Plaza on Patrick Street, puts a bandage on the arm of Meredith Foster of Charleston after giving her a flu shot. Foster is four months pregnant. Pregnant women are at a higher risk for getting the flu, but research shows that only about half get flu shots.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — With flu activity now widespread in West Virginia, state health officials are concerned students returning to school Monday could cause the virus to spread further.

Dr. Rahul Gupta, the state’s new health officer and commissioner for the Bureau for Public Health, said schools are likely to see flu outbreaks now that winter break is ending and is urging all West Virginians to take extra precautions.

The bureau issued a statement Friday asking West Virginians to get a flu shot and to stay home if sick. The bureau also promoted standard hygiene like washing hands frequently, covering sneezes and coughs with a tissue or sleeve and cleaning shared and touched surfaces with a disinfectant.

Flu activity in West Virginia escalated Tuesday to “widespread” status, which means cases are being reported in several regions across the state.

The bureau reported more than 30 flu outbreaks last month, with school-age children being one of the hardest hit populations.

State health officials have warned citizens for months that flu season would likely get an early start this year. While the virus can begin its spread as early as November, it usually remains contained until January.

“West Virginia is already seeing high levels of influenza activity across the state,” Gupta said. “This flu season is shaping up to be a severe one in the Mountain State…

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