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Kansas elementary school temporarily closes due to rise in respiratory illnesses

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(KANSAS CITY) — An elementary school in Kansas City, Kansas, has become one of the latest to temporarily close due to a surge in respiratory illnesses among students and staff.

Christ the King Catholic School closed for three days starting Wednesday “due to illness,” including flu and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), the school announced this week.

“With the high number of positive Influenza A and RSV cases among our faculty, staff, and students, we will be disinfecting the building as well,” the school said on social media on Tuesday. “Please pray for the health of our CTK community.”

School officials told ABC Kansas City, Missouri, affiliate KMBC-TV that out of 250 students, 50 to 60 were out sick. Seven of the school’s 21 teachers also have the flu, RSV or COVID-19, the station reported.

“Just anticipating that it would continue to spread this week, we went ahead and called it so that we could also disinfect the building,” Principal Cathy Fithian told KMBC.

A shortage of faculty also factored into the decision.

“If you can’t staff your building and have teachers in the classrooms, you just can’t have school,” she told KMBC.

The school did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

The closure comes as the region is seeing a surge in pediatric emergency department visits for flu-like symptoms, including RSV. The common respiratory virus typically causes mild, cold-like symptoms, though can be serious for some, especially infants and older adults.

Overland Park Regional Medical Center said it has seen a 100% increase in patients coming into the pediatric emergency department since school started for seasonal illnesses such as bronchiolitis, which is most commonly caused by RSV, and flu.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows an increase in confirmed RSV cases for the Midwest region, which includes Kansas and Missouri, starting in September.

Nationwide, RSV cases have risen from 2,191 cases for the week ending Sept. 3 to 13,759 for the week ending Oct. 29, CDC data shows.

According to the CDC, respiratory illnesses are appearing earlier, and in more people, than is typical.

Doctors have warned that Americans may face a “tripledemic” this year, with rising RSV cases alongside the spread of COVID-19 and the flu this fall and winter.

Children are likely being exposed to viruses now that pandemic restrictions such as masking, social distancing and lockdowns have been mostly lifted, public health experts say.

School districts in several states have also been impacted by illness this school year.

In Kentucky, all Fayette County Public Schools closed on Monday “because of widespread illness among students and staff,” the district said. In North Carolina, Jackson County Public Schools were also closed on Monday “as a result of illness and staffing concerns.”

In Alabama, public schools in Marshall County went remote this week due to an increase in flu cases among students and staff.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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