BUFFALO, N.Y. — The decision by Gowanda and four other school districts in Western New York to close last Friday was in part because of the flu. There were especially high call-in rates among teachers who were staying home themselves to take care of their own sick children. Those school closings were compounded by the long existing shortage of substitute teachers and the snowy weather. 

The good news is that after calling every school district in Erie and Niagara counties, 2 On Your Side found out many are reporting the absentee rate among students and teachers seems to have dropped back to typical cold and flu seasons. 

Still, health officials warn we are not out of the woods with flu cases just yet. 

"We are not at the peak of our flu epidemic as of today," says Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein. "We hopefully will get there soon. However we don't know when we're gonna get there and that's why it's still time — if you haven't already been immunized against the flu — to get your flu shot."  

Also again proper hygiene habits and sanitizing are crucial in stopping the spread of the flu. That's why many school districts have been doing what they call deep cleans of desktops, doorknobs and other surface areas. Even school buses, especially seats, have been sprayed with sanitizers. And superintendents say that work will intensify next week when most schools are closed for their mid-winter break.  

Perhaps the best advice to prevent the spread of such a highly contagious illness is to keep it to yourself, according to Burstein.

"Don't send your kids to school if they're ill," Burstein said. "Don't go to work yourself if you're ill because everybody will just spread whatever they have and continue the cycles of sickness at school and sickness at work."

Burstein says there is one new interesting trend in that they are seeing more cases of the Influenza B virus earlier than usual. It is typically seen more-so in the spring. But as she points out either the "A" or "B" type of the flu will make you equally sick. 

Updated figures on reported flu cases will be available later this week. 

Looking for more information about the flu? The Erie County Health Department has more information here on flu cases. The federal CDC also has additional information.

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