Kalmiopsis Elementary School is in the grips of what appears to be a flu epidemic, with 209 students absent Friday and another eight sent home because of illness throughout the day.

This is up from the 124 students who were absent Thursday and the 38 who were sent home.

Superintendent Brian Hodge said six teachers were out sick Friday. He said many classes had been combined at the school because of the epidemic. He said it appears to be limited to Kalmiopsis.

Officials from the Oregon Health Department visited the school Wednesday and took samples from sick children to test. Results should be available Monday confirming whether the illness is influenza.

Principal Helena Chirinian said that custodians took extra care in disinfecting the school and classrooms before classes Thursday.

Custodians also disinfected the playground equipment, Chirinian said.

Hodge said cleaning crews have also switched the kinds of cleaning solutions they are using to try and disinfect the school.

The most recent information from the state's Public Health Department says that instances of flu and flu-like illnesses are declining statewide, but that there are still outbreaks regionally.

Although many parents requested to have school canceled for the day, Hodge didn't because it might cause older students to miss school in order to care for their younger siblings and would cause more of a disruption.

Azalea Middle School had 31 students absent because of illness Thursday. Absences had been higher in previous weeks because of illness but appear to be declining. Brookings-Harbor High School did not have more absences than usual Thursday.

Parents commenting about the epidemic on the Pilot's Facebook page said their children were suffering from flu-like symptoms such as fevers, vomiting, diarrhea, and respiratory problems.

Officials advise that students who are sick should stay at home to prevent others from catching the illness and are advising those recovering to stay home at least 48 hours after the fever has broken.

To prevent catching the flu, people are advised to wash their hands regularly and to cover their mouths with a tissue or arm when sneezing or coughing. People should avoid touching their eyes, nose and ears and should avoid contact with sick people.