- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 7, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Several school systems around Tennessee have closed temporarily because so many kids and teachers are sick with the flu or stomach bug.

Knox County school officials announced that the system would be closed Tuesday and Wednesday because of illness. There were so many sick school teachers that the district was having a hard time finding substitutes, said Carly Harrington a spokeswoman for the school district. Students and teachers had been sick with respiratory illness, intestinal virus and confirmed flu in some cases.

Stewart County officials announced on Monday that schools would be closed for the rest of the week after a quarter of teachers and staff were out sick that day, said Leta Joiner, the director of schools. Students, she said, have been sick with the flu and strep throat - and in some cases are suffering from both. She said a number of children had experienced fever and vomiting.

“As a director, you never want to miss instructional time, but it’s important that our kids are safe,” Joiner said. A local doctor, she said, advised the school system to close through Friday.

Media reports say an additional number of Middle and East Tennessee county school districts have been forced to close recently due to illness, including: Anderson, Bedford, Campbell, Grainger, Loudon, Monroe, Overton, Roane and Rhea and Scott counties.

A Tennessee Health Department official say there aren’t any known outbreaks of disease in the state. However, she noted that it is flu season and that a number of other illnesses tend to also circulate this time of year.

“It is not too late to get a flu shot,” Health Department spokeswoman Shelley Walker said.

A map from the Centers for Disease Control shows that Tennessee has been one of the states hit hardest by an influenza-like illness.

Joiner, the Stewart County Schools director, said flu shots are actually given at the schools in the district.

Besides recommending a flu shot, state Health Department officials are urging people to stay home when they are sick, to frequently wash hands with warm, soapy water and to cover the mouth when they cough.

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