CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – After widespread flu activity across South Carolina, Horry County School officials said they’re seeing more flu-related absences than normal this flu season. 

Horry County Schools spokesperson Lisa Bourcier said there has been a spike in students sick with the flu over the last two weeks. South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control believes the flu outbreak has just reached its peak.

“We have definitely seen an uptick in student absences, especially in the last week,” said Bourcier.

According to Bourcier, elementary schools have seen the most flu-related absences because “the younger kids definitely share more, touch more, so we’re seeing more absences at that level of school.”

Several Horry County schools have called DHEC daily for the last two weeks to notify state officials of how many students are out sick with the flu. DHEC does require schools to report flu-related absences if 10 percent of a school’s population is absent due to the flu, or if 20 percent of students in a single classroom are out sick with the flu.

Bourcier says no schools in Horry County have reached a 10 percent absence rate because of the flu, but individual classrooms at several schools have had as high as 20 percent of their students out sick. DHEC stresses that all schools step up their hygiene practices. 

“We have increased all of our cleaning methods, not only with our custodial staff but also with our teachers. Wiping down a lot of touchable surfaces, especially tables, keyboards, doorknobs, things that are frequently used most often in the schools,” said Bourcier.

Though the school district usually sees more absences around flu season, Bourcier said, “I think this year has been a little more active than normal in past, and we’ve definitely seen more absences, not only with our staff but with our students as well.”

DHEC told Horry County school health officials that it expects the flu outbreak to start calming down in the coming weeks. In the meantime, DHEC recommends any child or teacher who has a temperature of 100 partnered with a cough or sore throat to stay home and not return to the classroom until the fever has been eliminated for 24 hours.

In most cases, teachers and students with the flu will miss three to five days of school. DHEC says attempting to return before the doctor’s recommended time may prolong the sickness and be a threat to other students.