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      No spikes in flu-related absences at schools

      While the Rhode Island Department of Health is reporting widespread cases of the flu across the state, officials for the major school departments said Thursday they haven't seen flu-related spikes in the number of absences.

      Ray Votto of the Cranston School Department said he hopes the pattern continues.

      "We did an analysis (Thursday) morning and we average 525 absences per day. We don't see any changes at all or spikes at either the student or staff level," Votto said.

      In Cranston, there are nearly 11,000 students in the district spread out between 24 elementary schools, three middle schools and three high schools.

      Officials from the Providence and Warwick school districts also said they aren't seeing any major increases in absences.

      So what has helped keep the number of flu-related absences down? Officials say participation in flu clinics and personal responsibility.

      However, Votto said it's still early.

      "We're very cautious about it. We know it can change in a heartbeat and we still have a ways to go," Votto said.