LITCHFIELD, Ill. -- A flu outbreak has closed an Illinois school district.

According to a voicemail message sent to parents in the district by Superintendent Debbie Poffinbarger, the schools will be closed Thursday and Friday due to high numbers of absences.

Custodians will be working to sanitize and disinfect the schools during the closure.

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"Also this is going to allow students an opportunity to stay home and recoup, and hopefully reduce any other further transmissions," Poffinbarger said in the voicemail.

This year's flu season is already shaping up to be particularly brutal. In Missouri, there have already been 1,545 cases of the flu reported, compared to 379 cases at this time last year. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says this year's flu season started early, and the U.S. may be particularly hard-hit.

The flu vaccine this year is only 10% effective against H3N2, the strain that caused a difficult flu season in the southern hemisphere.

To keep you and your family healthy, the health department is asking people to get a flu shot and follow these steps:

  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after touching shared objects or surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, remote controls, shopping counters, debit card readers, etc. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces.
  • Stay home while you’re sick and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.