CENTRAL, LA (WAFB) - School hasn't started at Central High and 20 football players there, about one-fifth of the entire team, are either sick or recovering from the flu, but for now, school will start on schedule.
It has been confirmed the boys contracted Type A Flu and state health officials think the students have H1N1, or swine flu, but there has no official word on whether or not that's the case. The strain, which started in Mexico, has become significantly milder.
Because so many players are out sick, the football field has been significantly less crowded lately. "I liken it to Hurricane Gustav," said Coach Sid Edwards. "Your daily routine is interrupted and we teach the boys to forge through it. As long as their health is okay, we just keep on going." Ten of boys just recently got back on the field. "I think eventually, this stuff is going to go through everyone," said Edwards.
He is concerned for his players' health, of course, but as a coach, he says he can't help but be nervous the virus will impact how his team competes come game time. "You hope it doesn't affect the season, but there are some things we can control and things we can't and we can't control this bug like that," he said.
Sharon Ball is the school nurse. She says parents and students can take some precautions. They can start by staying home if they feel sick. Also, Ball says they should keep their hands washed. "Although we seem to be first having to deal with it, the entire, all schools throughout the U.S. are going to be embracing for this flu to come," she said.
Health experts expect this new strain of the flu to be this school year's "common cold." On average, Coach Edwards says his players have been sick for about three days with the virus. "We just think it's going to be a rolling number for a while probably," he said. He's trying to stay focused on the positive, though. There is now a new team t-shirt idea: "Central football. Catch the fever."
Central High School is scheduled to reopen on Monday, August 17th. School officials wiped down the school and even fogged the team locker room to safely prepare.