A message from Scott Frank, MD, MS, Medical Director, Shaker Heights School District:
As you may be aware through news reports, seasonal flu has hit early and hard in Ohio and the nation this year. Children are especially at risk. Flu-associated hospitalizations reported in Ohio jumped from 71 as of December 31, 2011, to 1,230 by the same date in 2012. Seasonal flu is a contagious virus, which can be spread through the air by coughing or sneezing and by touch after contact with the nose, mouth, or eyes and another person or object without washing hands.
The signs and symptoms of flu can include: fever/chills, cough, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, runny or stuffy nose, vomiting or diarrhea. Students who have a fever of 100 degrees or more and other flu symptoms should stay home at least 24 hours after the fever is gone. Start counting time after you stop giving your child fever medicines like acetaminophen, (Tylenol)or ibuprofen. Never give a child aspirin, as it places them at high risk for medical complications. Students who begin to feel ill at school should be sent home until illness is over.
It is not too late to get a flu shot. Shaker students and family members may receive a flu shot by contacting your doctor or the Shaker Heights Health Department (491-1480).
The Health Department will be holding a seasonal flu shot clinic in the Health Department on Wednesday, January 16, from 4:00 - 6:00 p.m. Appointments are required and can be made by calling 216-491-1480. Cost: children 6 months to 18 years - $12.00; adults $30.00, and those 65 and older with Medicare will be billed to insurance.
Flu shots not only protect your children, but also your family, fellow students, and everyone in the school district. Household contacts and caregivers of children younger than 5 years of age should get a flu shot, with particular emphasis on vaccinating contacts of children younger than 6 months of age. Children younger than 6 months are at highest risk of flu-related complications but are too young to get vaccinated. While the flu shot remains the best tool available to help prevent the flu, you should continue to take all other precautions. Recent studies have demonstrated the flu shot to be 60 percent effective.
The spread of flu can be reduced by frequent hand-washing, especially after coughing or sneezing. Hands should be washed using soap and hot running water, for approximately 20 seconds, or the amount of time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday." Alcohol-based hand cleanser or sanitizer works well, too. Put enough on your hands to make them all wet, then rub them together until dry. Teach your child to cover his/her mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Show your child how to cough into the elbow or upper sleeve (not a hand) or use a tissue. Don't let children share pacifiers, cups, spoons, forks, washcloths, or towels without washing. Never share toothbrushes. Throw all tissues used for runny noses and sneezes in the trash right away. It is also a good idea to avoid shaking hands during flu season.
Call your doctor right away if your child has fast breathing or trouble breathing; looks very sick; is very sleepy; is very fussy no matter what you do; cannot or will not drink anything; or urinates very little. Call 911 or go to the emergency department right away if your child has blue lips or skin color, has signs of the flu that keep getting worse and worse; or will not wake up from sleep. Be even more cautious if your child has a chronic medical condition like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, immune deficiency, or neurological disorders that make it harder to cough up mucus.
Two antiviral drugs - Tamiflu and Relenza - can reduce the length and seriousness of the flu. These medications are available by prescription only and work best when started within the first two days of symptoms. They are not a replacement for the flu shot, which is still the best protection.
For more information, visit the Center for Disease Control's website.