Local News

Apex School Deals With Large Number Of Sick Students

Posted January 12, 2006 5:23 a.m. EST

— Around 165 students called in sick Wednesday at Salem Middle School in Apex, where around 1,000 kids are enrolled. It's an unusually high number, and now health officials say the concern is that the illness will spread far beyond the school.

Seventh-grader Mathew Frank has seen better days.

"My stomach has not been feeling good for the last couple of days," he said.

"[He's] very tired and aches and pains and sleeping all the time," said Mathew's mother Roberta Frank.

Mathew is one of 165 students at Salem Middle School who stayed home sick, suffering from flu-like symptoms.

"This is a bit of an extraordinary fluke but those do happen," said Gibbie Harris with the Wake County Health Department.

Wake County health officials say the peak of flu season typically happens in late January and early February.

"The reality is, this is the time of year we will see an increase in viruses, and flu is one of them," said Harris.

Since students are confined to classrooms, schools like Salem Middle School become a breeding ground of illness.

"They are the harbinger of what we'll see out in the community, because once the germs get out there, because that's where it happens and then spreads out to the rest of us," said Harris.

What's the best advice? Harris advised children and their parents to wash their hands often. And if your child is sick, keep them home.

"Once you bring the virus to the school, it will spread and spread and spread until it wears itself out," she said.

This is the second straight day of high absences at Salem. Wake County school administrators said it's the only school reporting such high numbers of sick students.