MESA COUNTY, Colo (KKCO) - In the course of just a week Mesa County health officials say they've seen a spike in the number of people with the flu.
Tuesday the Mesa County Health Department reported seven new hospitalized cases of the flu, bringing the total number of hospitalized cases in the county up to 12. Health officials say that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to flu cases in the Grand Valley.
In the small town of Fairplay, Colo., a handful of custodial workers are all that can be seen walking the halls of the schools there. Officials say more than half of their students are out sick, forcing them to close schools for the rest of the week.
Here in Mesa County, health officials say they continue to monitor the number of absences from school -- and they've noticed an increase.
"Several schools have sent letters home to parents notifying them that there is an increase in absenteeism," says Kristy Emerson, spokesperson for the Mesa County Health Department.
Nisley, Chipeta, Wingate, and the Dual Immersion Academy have all seen rising numbers of students out sick. Officials say while they don't feel it's necessary to close those or any other schools at this time, that could change if things take a turn for the worse.
"Really, there's no set number or threshold on the number of absences," says Emerson. "It's going to depend on the school, depend on the staff, but that may be a possibility as we get further into the flu season."
Felicia Casto has a daughter enrolled in a District 51 school. She says she's not overly worried when it comes to the number of students missing school -- but just the same, she's been making sure her daughter knows to wash her hands and take other precautionary measures.
"I guess I believe if your kid is going to get sick, they're probably gonna get it," says Casto. "But if you take the extra precautions and do you what you need to do, I think you're going to be better off."
The spike in the flu has also caused several hospitals across the state to bar certain people or age groups from visiting patients, to help prevent an outbreak. St. Mary's Hospital, Community Hospital, and Family Health West all tell 11 News they have not had to put visitation restrictions in place.
However, Community Hospital is updating a section of its Web site daily to let people know if those restrictions are in place, and St. Mary's is asking visitors who feel even a little under the weather to stay away.
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