Half of the high school students were sick with flu-like symptoms

Half of the high school students in Virginia were sick with flu-like symptoms

Officials and students said about 1,000 Virginia high school students fell ill last week with flu-like symptoms after a back-to-school event turned super widespread.

Nearly half of the student body at Stafford High School in Fredericksburg, Virginia, developed symptoms and missed school on October 21, a spokesperson for the school, about 50 miles south of Washington, D.C., told NBC Washington.

The school said in a Facebook post on October 21 that it would cancel all school activities and athletics until October 23 due to many student and staff illnesses.

The school's student newspaper, Smoke Signal, reported that 1,289 tickets were sold for the homecoming dance held in the school cafeteria on October 15.

One student told Smoke Signal that when she went to an urgent care center, she had to wait two hours before a caregiver told her, "This is the worst I've ever seen," and that about 500 students sought treatment at the center.

The school spokesperson said officials at NBC Washington are working with the Department of Health to determine the cause of the outbreak.

Health officials have warned that this year's flu season could be severe, and several states are already seeing many cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Because influenza has not circulated in the community much in the past two years, our immune systems have not had a chance to reactivate and increase antibody levels," previously told TODAY. "In the United States, immunity to influenza is lower than in previous years, so that's one reason why it's expected to be a more severe season," Leiter added.

The past few flu seasons have been mild in the United States due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and experts are urging people to get a seasonal flu shot to help protect themselves.

"Getting a flu shot this year is more important than it has been in the past two years," said Leiter.

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