Flu/illness hits a quarter of students at Hope Hall in Gates

Gates, N.Y. - Hope Hall in Gates cancelled classes Tuesday after the flu and other illnesses struck a quarter of the students.

"Monday, in one of our 9th grade classes, there were only two children in attendance," said Sister Diana Dolce.

She spoke to 13WHAM's Jane Flasch in the empty classroom of the school she founded 22 years ago. It is the first time in the school's history that such a step has been taken. That's because, on Monday, the busiest room at the school was the nurse's office. 12 children and 15 staff members were there with fevers. In this school with 166 students, 32 were already out ill.

"We're seeing a lot of kids with wheezing, coughing, sneezing and temperatures," said Sister Diana. "I said to myself, we need to have a day where everyone can rest, make doctor's appointments and get the medicine they need."

New York is one of the top five states hardest-hit by the flu. Rochester hospitals are seeing a sharp increase in confirmed cases. At Strong Memorial Hospital, there were 116 confirmed cases the week of February 4th - an 80 percent increase from two weeks ago.

In the last two weeks, Rochester General Hospital has seen 120 cases. "We're about three weeks in, so we've got about another three or four weeks to go," said Dr. Edward Walsh, who is head of infectious diseases. Portable respiratory hygiene stations have been set up to offer masks, tissues and hand sanitizer to staff members and visitors.

Dr. Walsh says if you haven't gotten a flu shot, now is the time. It starts building immunity in about a week to 10 days. "You should not simply say, 'I've gotten through half the season, I'll be okay for the second half,'" he said.

The flu is coming on strong at the same time as four or five respiratory viruses, offering a "perfect storm" of contagious options. That's why the halls at Hope Hall are silent for a day and precautions have been taken before students return to the classroom.

"We disinfected doorknobs and light switches, desks and chairs pens and pencils anything that the kids touched, we disinfected," said Sister Diana.

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