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More than 1,000 students absent, suspected respiratory outbreak under investigation at 2 San Diego County schools

School officials said the symptoms were mostly fever, cough and headache.

SAN DIEGO — San Diego County Public Health Services is investigating a large, suspected outbreak of respiratory and flu-like symptoms reported among students at Patrick Henry High School and Del Norte High School.

About 400 students were absent from Del Norte High School on Wednesday and Thursday due to an outbreak of a flu-like illness.

School officials said the symptoms were mostly fever, cough and headache. 

According to Poway Unified spokesperson Christine Paik, the absences began Monday.

"What we saw from the Monday back from the weekend, we had 189 absences. Tuesday and Wednesday that jumped to close to 400," said Paik.

Students just celebrated homecoming over the weekend. However, Paik said not all of the kids out sick went to homecoming. 

She said their symptoms are flu-like, similar to the symptoms of the students at Patrick Henry High School.

A San Diego Unified spokesperson tells CBS8, on Wednesday, more than 1,000 students at Patrick Henry called out sick.

While county doctors are still waiting for more test results to come back, at this point, they believe most of the students at both high schools have the flu.

"While this is preliminary, a number of them are already testing positive for influenza A.  Flu A is the harder hitter of the major types of flu we deal with annually," said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, a deputy health officer with the County of San Diego.

Dr. Kaiser warns flu season is hitting much earlier and harder than we're used to, saying while flu season typically starts in October, we normally don't see an uptick in cases until late fall or early winter.

"We're up already to 1,000 total cases of flu just now in October, which is a quarter of last year’s entire season. We're seeing flu hit now and we're seeing it hit earlier than it normally would," said Dr. Kaiser.

And it's not just in San Diego.

The CDC has reported an increase in flu cases nationwide. This, after the southern hemisphere saw its worst flu season in years, which doctors here in the United States use to predict how our flu season will be.

Why is this year so different?

Dr. Kaiser says part of the reason is because we're more relaxed with COVID protocols, which protected us from illnesses other than COVID.

"We're sort of in that lull of COVID-19 surges and folks are starting to relax a little and get less careful with how they're doing things," said Dr. Kaiser.

At this point, no word on any students hospitalized, though Dr. Kaiser warns more outbreaks are likely. He's urging everyone six months and up to get a flu shot.

“The bottom line for the winter is folks need to buckle up and make sure they get protected cuz it's probably going to be a bad one,” said Dr. Kaiser.

Also, school officials are reminding parents to take addiitonal precautions. 

If your child is experiencing any symptoms, keep them home from school

WATCH RELATED: Suspected respiratory outbreak at Patrick Henry High School under investigation (Oct. 2022)



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