The influenza virus has become widespread in 49 states in the U.S., prompting officials to close schools in order to fight the illness

By Char Adams
January 30, 2018 08:11 AM

This year’s flu season has been devastating for children across the country. And several schools have closed their doors in efforts to fight the illness.

Schools in at least a dozen states have cancelled classes for days at a time after staff and students became sick, CBS News reports. Officials at Bishop Lynch High School, in Dallas, Texas, shut the school down for days so crews could disinfect the property.

“This year it really is unprecedented,” school nurse Patty Barton told CBS of the illness. “I probably saw about 30 kids here on Monday and sent 10 home.”

The CDC currently lists the 2017 to 2018 flu season as “moderately severe,” and warns it could get worse. Thirty children have succumbed to the virus across the nation so far, PEOPLE confirmed with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During this season, flu activity became widespread in 49 states at the same time and has remained at the same level for three weeks in a row, according to the CDC.

Emily Muth died on Jan. 19, just days after she was diagnosed with the flu

More than 10 percent of the student body at Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic School in Dallas got sick, prompting school officials to cancel Monday’s classes.

“Even if we miss anything, the kids will have a chance to go home, get healthy and hopefully not bring that virus back to school,” Matthew Vereecke, the school’s superintendent, told CBS.

Last week, 20 Oklahoma school districts closed as a result of the epidemic, according to WTNH.

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This flu season has been deadly, claiming the lives of several children in recent weeks. On Jan. 19, 6-year-old Emily Muth, of North Carolina, died just days after she was diagnosed with the flu.

Earlier this month, Jenny Ching, of Needham, Massachusetts, died suddenly of flu complications. Last month, 21-year-old aspiring personal trainer Kyler Baughman died after experiencing septic shock caused by the flu virus. Just weeks earlier, Alani “Joie” Murrieta died one day after she was diagnosed with the flu.

The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) reports that the flu vaccine lessens the chance that someone catches the virus by 10 to 60 percent and doesn’t guarantee that someone will not catch the flu. However, the annual vaccine is highly recommended by the CDC for everyone 6 months and older and the more people that get vaccinated can limit the disease’s spread throughout the community.