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Northeast Ohio schools concerned about flu spread after first pediatric flu death

Dmytro Zinkevych
Cuyahoga County flu tracking shows more kids are staying home sick right now as a variety of viruses circulate, including RSV, COVID-19 and the flu.

Northeast Ohio school districts are worried about spreading flu infections after a Cuyahoga County reported the first pediatric flu death of the year.

A 13-year-old boy died of the disease in late October or early November, according to the county board of health.

County influenza tracking shows that more kids are missing school due to illness. School absences were double the five-year median for the week ending on Nov. 4, according to the county health department.

Area doctors said they are worried that this flu season, which has come early and is compounded by RSV and COVID-19, will be especially bad.

Moreland Hills Elementary School Nurse Christine Rogen said the school reported 100 students absent on Halloween. She’s seen a lot of kids suffering from respiratory symptoms, she said.

“We've had some absences related to flu,” Rogen said. “We also have the RSV [respiratory syncytial virus] and strep and even COVID on occasion. So, you know, everything's just sort of happening.”

She said more viruses are circulating now, so she said it’s important for parents to get their kids vaccinated and boosted.

“We wore masks for two and a half years. Off and on, but we wore masks,” Rogen said. “Now our kids are being more and more exposed to these viruses and germs. They're building that antibody and so they are getting sick.”

Before the pandemic, it was not uncommon for nearly 200 children to die annually from the flu, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) figures show. During the 2020-2021 season, only one child nationwide died from the illness.

She said washing your hands, staying home when you’re sick, and getting your vaccines and boosters are the best ways to stay safe.

Taylor Wizner is a health reporter with Ideastream Public Media.