GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - The flu epidemic that has killed more than 100 people in North Carolina is spreading to our local law enforcement. Nearly two dozen deputies from the Gaston County Sheriff's department are recovering from the virus.
Sheriff Alana Cloninger says a lot of his deputies will push through almost anything, which he appreciates. But when his officers have the flu - that's a different story. He is now forcing officials to go home if they are sick.
Sheriff Cloninger has been sick himself. He says throughout all his years working in law enforcement that he's faced threats, criminals, and other dangerous situations. But recently, his department of deputies faced another type of beast - the flu.
"And it was a learning experience, we never had anything like that," the Sheriff said.
Twenty-one officers were out sick because of the flu on Friday. Assistant Chief Deputy Garry Williams was one of the unlucky ones to catch the bug. He's now back on the job after being out for five days.
"I think I sweated out every fluid I had in me on Thursday," said Williams, who now keeps a bottle of hand sanitizer close by.
Due to the number of sickly deputies, the workload became heavier for the rest of the department.
"When you have that many people out, yeah, you feel a little bit of strain. We called people in for overtime, but we handled it well," Chief Cloninger said.
The sheriff's office employs over 200 people, and that could mean a lot of germs around the office. There are more cleaning supplies and soap all throughout the building in an attempt to fight the flu.
"It seemed to have stopped our problem because we don't have that many out sick right now," the chief said.
It is a fight that's tough even for those who fight crime for a living.
"It comes and goes and doesn't want to leave, that's the problem it doesn't want to leave."
The sheriff says, for the most part, his inmates are healthy. Those who are sick are getting the medicine they need and are isolated from the general public.