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Birmingham schools avoid spike in flu absences; businesses work to keep it that way

The Alabama Department of Health issued a public health emergency in response to the state's widespread flu outbreak. (MGN)

Many of Birmingham's largest school systems said they were able to avoid a spike in flu absences this week. The news comes the same week the Alabama Department of Public Health announced a public health emergency because of this year's flu outbreak.

"We do have some isolated cases in some schools but we are thankful that it's not widespread in the school system," said Jefferson County Schools nursing supervisor Tara Underwood. Officials at Birmingham City Schools, Hoover City Schools, and Jefferson County Schools all reported normal attendance numbers. The story was not the same everywhere. Briarwood Christian School was closed Friday due to large numbers of students and staff with the flu.

State health officials say this year's strand of the flu is more contagious than normal. Across the city people have been working to keep their businesses as germ-free as possible. "Every time the lobby empties I'm out here cleaning it back up, wiping the tables down and basically just keeping it clean," said deli manager Annette Pierce, whose mother is recovering from a three week bout with the flu.

Children at the McWane Science Center are encouraged to touch the exhibits. Staff said it's the reason every day for them is like the middle of flu season. Sanitation stations are set up across the center and exhibits are often closed for deep cleaning. "This is something that we think about everyday, all year long. We have a lot of specific safety and health protocols that we follow," said spokeswoman Katie Baasen.

Parents at the center like Jamie Randolph have been following news of the outbreak but said it was not reason enough to cancel their visit. "It's not a whole lot you can do unless you keep them in a bubble, bundled and indoors and we just try to be cautious of where we go and make sure that we are washing hands periodically."

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