How schools are dealing with flu in the tri-state - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

Local doctor says don't underestimate the strength of the current strain of flu

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Influenza is now widespread in 41 states and is responsible for 15 deaths in Indiana. The flu has claimed six lives in Illinois and at least one in Kentucky.  

The Vanderburgh County Health Department estimates that 25,000 students in the EVSC school district have not received their flu shots this year. 

Despite the number of children that haven't been vaccinated EVSC officials say only about six percent of their students have been absent this week.

Henderson County Schools are also hovering around that six percent mark.

Gibson County and Owensboro schools say they haven't been seeing a spike in the flu yet. School officials say they haven't been send kids home sick because parents are keeping them home when they have flu-like symptoms. 

"Right now I think we have to assume this is very serious," Dr. Ray Nicholson said. 

Vanderburgh County Health Officer, Dr. Ray Nicholson, says he can't stress enough the strength of the strain of flu that is now widespread in more than 40 states across the country.

He says the lack of people receiving the flu vaccine is scary. He says the "herd mentality" is when someone thinks they're safe from the flu simply because everyone else is getting their flu shot. 

"The real heroes are the people who take the flu vaccine because you don't have to immunize 100 percent of the population to control an epidemic," Nicholson said.

Nicholson says around 65 to 70 percent of the population must be immunized to control the rapid spread of the flu. Right now, officials say we are no where near that number. 

Nicole Marrero says her two young children did receive their flu shots this year and so far, they haven't been sick. 

"For one their age and two, with them going to daycare and you never know if they can catch any germs or for them to get sick...you just never know," Marrero said.

Nicole says she also got the flu vaccine. Doctors say this is the first step in preventing your children from contracting it. 

"Fortunately you know thank god my kids haven't gotten sick," Marrero said.

Nicholson says Evansville was hit with a severe flu epidemic in 1963. He says the city essentially shut down because people were either home sick or staying home to avoid it.

He says it's possible this year's flu could spread quickly enough to carry that same punch.

Most importantly officials want the public to know that it's not too late to get your flu shot.

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