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Warren, Minn., cancels school due to flu

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With nearly half the high school students home sick with the flu Tuesday in Warren, Minn., Superintendent Bryan Thygeson Made the call: no school today.

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"We had 47 percent of our student body at the high school absent today," said Thygeson, head of the Warren-Alvarado-Oslo district. "We've been bringing kids home during the day, having parents come in and pick them up."

It happened fast.

"We went from Monday having about 60 students out with 40 of them that had influenza-like symptoms to today, with 100 students out and 80 of them with influenza-like symptoms," he said Tuesday. "That's how quick it was. We didn't have anything leading up to this week."

There won't be any classes the rest of the week.

The fact that it's "teacher's break," the Education Minnesota Conference held each October, means school already wasn't scheduled for Thursday and Friday.

The flu also means the big football game scheduled for Thursday at home against undefeated Fosston High School means the 4-2 W-A-O Ponies have to forfeit and lose a chance to make up ground against a key rival, Thygeson said.

"This was going to be a big game," he said. "But it's more of a safety issue. If we are going to make the decision, academically, not to have school, it just made sense as a safety issue to cancel everything."

There were no volleyball games scheduled this week.

The Warren-Alvarado-Oslo School District has 220 students in grades 7-12 in a single building and about 200 in grades K-6 in a separate building in Warren.

About 100 in the high school were absent Tuesday; only 10 to 15 elementary students were absent.

It appears to be a relatively mild strain of flu, so far, Thygeson said. The main symptoms are a fever of 101 or 102 degrees, general aches and pains, and the chills.

From 40 to 50 of the students have tested positive for "influenza A," Thygeson said he's been told by medical professionals. That means it might be the seasonal flu or the H1N1 flu, and probably the latter because the seasonal flu reportedly hasn't really struck the region. But testing to make sure can take up to two weeks.

No students have needed to be hospitalized, he said.

Teachers haven't been hit by the flu, he said.

But while explaining the situation, Thygeson himself had to stop and cough. His voice sounded hoarse and weak, and he figures he may have the flu himself.

"I'm working through some of those issues," he said. "I haven't had the time to go in" to get it checked.

Thygeson said the medical professionals treating his students say they know of no other school in the region closing down because of flu.

"Nobody at this point is seeing numbers like this."

The timing was good, at least.

"If it had to happen, I'm glad it happened during Education Minnesota week," he said. "It will give us a chance to go into the classrooms and do some cleaning, bleaching, sterilizing the computers. And give students an opportunity to go home and rest and let some of this influenza run its course. So hopefully, when we come back before the end of the quarter, we are in better shape."

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