Florida county closes public schools due to flu

Some South Florida schools now offering free flu shots

PORT ST. JOE, Fla. – A Florida county will close all its schools on Friday due to flu concerns that have led to dozens of teachers calling out sick.

WJXT reports one-fifth of Gulf County schools students have been absent from the classroom this week.

The county's two elementary schools and high schools will be sanitized on Friday with hopes of reopening on Monday.

CDC: Flu is widespread in Florida

"Flu activity continues to be on the rise, and we are experiencing a significant impact from influenza-like cases in our school system," Gulf Coast schools posted on its Twitter feed.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho told Local 10 News that he is more concerned about the flu this year than ever before. Three children have recently died from the flu virus in Florida and the peak of flu season doesn't subside until March.

"If a kid is coughing, if he has fever -- you know, scratchy eyes, nose -- if he is fatigued, if he has body aches, treat it as if it was the flu. Seek medical attention. Keep the child home for 24 hours, at least," Carvalho said.

M-DCPS has increased its flu prevention measure after seeing a moderate spike in absences.

They have ordered increased cleaning and disinfection. Flu prevention educational materials are being sent home and parents are asked to treat symptoms as if their child has the flu.

"Tonight, thousands of phone calls, robotic phone calls, will go out to parents, letting them know about the symptoms (and) the fact that free flu shots are available. We are providing them via a partnership with a number of different entities," Carvalho said. 

The superintendent said 10,000 students and employees have already taken advantage of the free vaccinations. 

In a statement released Thursday, Broward County Public Schools said they have yet to detect a change in attendance due to the flu.

"Due to recent national concerns regarding the flu, schools were provided additional information from the Florida Department of Health-Broward and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," said Tracy Clark, Broward County Public Schools chief public information officer Tracy Clark said. "The District is monitoring attendance patterns of students and staff, and has not detected a change in attendance or any significant impact due to influenza." 

Still, Broward Health Medical Center officials said they have definitely been treating more people with flu-like symptoms.

"If you can get the vaccination -- older individuals, healthcare workers, children, those that have chronic medical conditions -- you probably want to consider getting the vaccination," Dr. Vincent Roddy said.