01.03.2024

Kentucky school district sends students home less than two weeks into year due to ‘tripledemic’ of Covid

A Kentucky school district has canceled classes soon after reopening after swathes of students hit by a ‘tripledemic‘ of flu, Covid and strep throat outbreaks.

The district has shut its doors less than two weeks after it reopened following nearly a fifth of its students signing off sick.

Lee County School District, which serves just under 900 pupils in the east of the state, went back after the summer break on August 9.

But by the end of the first week, nearly one in five pupils had signed off sick with Covid, strep throat, the flu or other illnesses. Fourteen staff members were also on leave.

Lee County Elementary School in Beattyville, Kentucky

Lee County Elementary School in Beattyville, Kentucky

Dr Danny Benjamin, a pediatrician at Duke University, told NBC News it is still early in the year to see a large flu outbreak

Dr Danny Benjamin, a pediatrician at Duke University, told NBC News it is still early in the year to see a large flu outbreak

The above graph shows the percent of positive Covid cases (tan line) and the weekly number of new Covid hospitalizations (blue bars)

When attendance did not improve at the start of the following week the school decided to close on Tuesday and Wednesday.

It will run remote learning today and tomorrow. It is not clear when in-person classes are expected to start again.

All extracurricular activities, including sports and games, have also been canceled to allow for a deep clean of the school.

Superintendent Earl Ray Schuler said: ‘We’re sanitizing our buses and our buildings and giving our staff and our students time to heal.’

The district is split into an elementary school and a combined middle and high school, and had roughly equal numbers of students call in sick from the two schools.

Updated Covid boosters are expected to roll out mid- to late-September but are awaiting the Food and Drug Administration’s approval.

Dr Danny Benjamin, a pediatrician at Duke University, told NBC News it is still early in the year to see a large flu outbreak. He predicted outbreaks would occur around early October.

The US flu season kicked in earlier than expected last year, in the first few weeks of October.

According to the CDC, there were 214 positive flu specimens — less than one percent of the specimens tested.

The CDC does not track Strep A at a national level, so it is impossible to know daily case figures.

Invasive Group A Streptococcus (iGAS) occurs when the bacteria invades a person’s deep muscle, fat and lung tissue.

Symptoms include a rash, sore throat, flushed cheeks, muscle aches, fever and sores on skin. It is a relatively mild illness that does not cause many pediatric deaths each year

Meanwhile, Covid infections in the US have nearly doubled in the past month amid the rise of two highly-mutated variants, official data has suggested.

The test positivity rate in the US — the share of swabs that come back positive — has soared from one in 15 in the week ending July 15 to one in eight by August 12, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.

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