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When Braedon Lagrone’s bus was 30 minutes late on the morning of Feb. 4, his mom, Juanita Lagrone, called East Mooresville Intermediate School to find out what was going on.

“They said so many drivers were out sick, they were having trouble covering all the routes,” Lagrone was told.

The bus eventually showed up and shuttled fifth-grader Braedon to school. But a few hours later, the tables were turned when the school called Lagrone. Braedon wasn’t feeling well, an East Mooresville office worker said.

She asked if Lagrone would like someone to take Braedon’s temperature because, it turned out, the school nurse was out with the flu.

So are plenty of other people. Reported flu cases in Iredell County and statewide have begun their annual spike, which traditionally peaks in early to mid-February. But health officials don’t expect a repeat of last season, when there were 29 flu-related deaths in North Carolina. There have been four flu-related deaths so far this season, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

“While we are beginning to see more patients present with flu-like symptoms, a smaller number are actually testing positive compared to last year at this time,” said Dr. Adam Crilly, emergency services medical director at Lake Norman Regional Medical Center. “This is a change from last year’s season when we saw more patients with symptoms testing positive for flu. This suggests the flu vaccine is much more effective this year.”

Karen Kerley, lead nurse for the Iredell-Statesville Schools, confirmed that the district is experiencing an increase in flu cases among students. To minimize the spread of the contagious illness, she advised principals to try to prevent sick students and employees from returning to school too soon.

“Students and staff should stay home at least 24 hours after they no longer have fever or signs of fever (including) chills, feeling very warm, flushed appearance or sweating, without use of fever-reducing medication, … (or show) any symptoms of acute illness,” Kerley wrote in an email to principals.

She also advised schools to be flexible with their attendance policies.

“Ideally, parents bring a doctor’s note excusing student’s absences,” Kerley wrote. “However, not all families have the capacity to seek medical attention and we do not want sick students at school. If parents/guardians cannot provide a doctor’s note, principals have the right to excuse a child from school due to illness.”

The most-effective way to prevent the flu, of course, is vaccination.

“The good news is, it’s not too late to get the flu shot,” said Dr. Elizabeth Clay, a family medicine physician at Lake Norman Regional Medical Center. “Even if the flu season peaks soon, it will still be around for months.”

The Centers for Disease Control recommends flu vaccinations for everyone older than 6 months. The vaccine is available at most family medical offices and many urgent care centers, and is covered by most insurance plans. Some pharmacies also offer flu shots.

The Iredell County Health Department also offers flu vaccines. There is no appointment needed for vaccinations at the department’s Statesville office, but appointments are required at the Mooresville location, at 610 E. Center Ave. The cost is $35, and Medicaid, Medicare and some private insurance plans are accepted.

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