By Erin Hassanzadeh

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Sickness is sweeping through Minnesota schools, forcing hundreds of kids to stay home.

At least 322 students were absent Monday from West Middle School in Shakopee — nearly 30% of the entire student body. The district says those students reported flu-like symptoms.

Health officials we talked to say there’s a chance it started here at Sun Path Elementary school just 2.5 miles away from West Middle School.

“I feel great. I’m not sure about other students though,” said Shakopee West seventh grader Diego Sanchez.

He said he noticed a few of his friends were missing from school Monday.

“We didn’t hear about it until fourth hour. Like, all the teachers were saying, ‘Please wash your hands, and if you feel sick just go to the nurse,’” Sanchez said.

Noemi Sanchez, Diego’s mother, was initially shocked when she heard just how many students were home sick. That shock then turned to worry.

“It’s just hard to believe that many,” Noemi Sanchez said. “My kid has some health issues, so basically I’ll call and see what’s the deal first thing in the morning.”

Scott County Public Health Supervisor Noreen Kleinfehn-Wald thinks the spread of sickness may be connected to siblings.

“There’s quite a concern that there have been children from Sun Path Elementary who have siblings at West Junior High, and have probably brought it back home,” Kleinfehn-Wald said.

She says 100 Sun Path Elementary students were absent because of flu-like symptoms last week, which was 15% of the entire school.

“We’re seeing cases much earlier this year,” Kleinfehn-Wald said.

Making flu vaccinations, covering coughs, and washing hands extra important. Diego Sanchez is already on it.

While state health officials don’t think it’s necessary or likely that class will be cancelled here in Shakopee, they do want to urge everyone if you have symptoms or if your child has symptoms, be sure to stay home.

Common flu symptoms to watch for include a fever of more than 100 degrees, a cough and a sore throat. Health officials say it also comes on more suddenly than a cold.

Erin Hassanzadeh

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