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Detroit school closed due to high levels of flu-like symptoms reports two cases of bacterial illness

By Carma Hassan, John Bonifield and Jennifer Feldman, CNN

After a spate of student illnesses prompted the temporary closure of a Detroit school, the district says two students were diagnosed with the bacterial illness Haemophilus influenzae.

Two students at Marcus Garvey Academy were diagnosed with H. flu, Chrystal Wilson, assistant superintendent of communications with the Detroit Public Schools Community District, said Friday.

The pre-K through eighth-grade school closed this week after “a number of students” in the lower grades became ill. Wilson said that fewer than 25 of the school’s 310 students were sick.

The school will reopen Monday, she said.

Earlier this week, she said, the school “experienced an unusually high rate of flu-like symptoms including student fevers, and vomiting, namely at the early grade levels.”

The closure also followed the death last week of a kindergartener who attended Marcus Garvey Academy, the school district said in a statement.

The student’s cause of death is pending, the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office said Friday.

“The student came to school with flu-like symptoms,” Wilson said.

Haemophilus influenzae, or H. flu, is a disease caused by bacteria that can lead to illnesses such as ear infections and bronchitis or more serious bloodstream infections, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. It is not the same as illness caused by influenza viruses.

“These bacteria live in people’s nose and throat, and usually cause no harm. However, the bacteria can sometimes move to other parts of the body and cause infection,” the CDC says.

The bacteria spreads through airborne particles and typically infects children under 5 or adults 65 and up.

Vaccines for Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) are recommended for children starting at 2 months old, according to the CDC, but they do not protect against other types of H. flu.

The Detroit Health Department said in a statement Wednesday that it is working with the school district to monitor the illnesses and reminded the public that vaccines are available.

“The Detroit Health Department offers vaccinations to children and adults to protect against many childhood diseases,” it said. “Vaccinations are also available at pediatric centers and primary care providers.”

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CNN’s Tanika Gray contributed to this report.

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