By MICHELLE BROOKS
RUSSELLVILLE - A flu virus has been going around the Cole County R-I Elementary School, said Superintendent Jerry Hobbs said.
Tuesday 20 students were sick, then 69 on Wednesday and 34 on Thursday.
Friday 14 more were sick.
The middle and high school students have not experienced a similar spread of the illness.
"This is very unusual for a flu virus to happen at the end of the school year," Hobbs said. "So we have been working with the department of health to try to find out what the cause is."
The health department began receiving calls from concerned parents at 2:15 p.m. Wednesday.
When the school confirmed the illness, the health department launched a disease investigation.
Currently, the health department is collecting specimens, which will be analyzed at the State Health Lab, from those who are or were recently ill. Data from those tests and information collected from parents and school officials will be reviewed.
The school kitchen was inspected Thursday. That inspection as well as the two conducted annually all had good reports.
Parents with ill children are encouraged to contact their health care provider, if the symptoms worsen.
Preventive measures - such as proper hand washing practice, cleaning and disinfecting, and keeping students at home until their health improves - also are recommended.
Some parents have asked why not cancel school for the last few days, Hobbs said.
"The law requires us to attend the specific number of days that we report to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in our Core Data Report," he said.
That number sent in August was 164. With the extension of the school year, due to inclement weather, the last day will be Monday.
"If this would have happened a few months ago during the typical flue season, there would not have been anything said about it," Hobbs said. "I can assure our parents that there was nothing at school that caused the illness."