Flu outbreak forces closure of Kirkland school

KIRKLAND, Wash. -- An outbreak in flu infections at a local school led administrators to take the drastic step of closing the campus for the rest of the year. Health experts have predicted a worse than normal season, and at Eastside Preparatory School, it's already off to a costly start.

The private school's top administrator has never shut down a school before. However, with one in five students calling in sick it seemed no one was safe.

"They said like 30 other kids in middle school were sick, so I think i got it from one of my friends," said Mickey Zyskowski, a fifth-grader.

Zyskowski started feeling bad over the weekend, and on Monday his symptoms got worse.

"My head hurt, my chest hurt. I had a fever. my stomach was hurting," he said.

A doctor diagnosed the 10 year old with influenza type-A. He's just one of many at the private school dealing with a knock-out blow.

"I've never had this amount of illness quite so quickly," said Dr. Terry Macaluso, the head of schools at Eastside Prep.

Macaluso had 65 sick calls on Wednesday, representing one in five students at the campus. She decided to cancel the rest of classes this week and not resume until after the holiday break.

"The real idea was to just separate us as soon as we could to stop the transmission, because it was just going crazy," Macaluso said.

The outbreak at Eastside Prep may be a sign of things to come in King County where health officials are bracing for the worst. The problems could be magnified because this year's flu vaccine may not be as effective as first thought, according to health experts.

"We would expect that this season will be more severe than average season," said Dr. Jeff Duchin with Public Health - Seattle & King County.

Eastside Prep maintains rigorous academic standards, Macaluso said canceling classes could take the stress off of students who are falling behind because of their illnesses. Parents interviewed for this story believe it is the right decision.

"Work is important, and school is important, but your health has to come first," said Gina Jamison, Mickey's mom.

Classrooms will get scrubbed down, and teachers will be available to students through Friday to coordinate make-up work. Still, it's a stark lesson about what could be in store over the course of this flu season.