Lee schools working to vaccinate against swine flu
LEE COUNTY — Swine flu is among us.
It really never left, said Lee County Health Department Director Judith Hartner, but Lee County Schools are on alert for the signs and symptoms of sick kids.
The next step, discussed at a meeting of the district’s School Health Advisory Committee, will be the effort to get students vaccinated against seasonal flu, and possibly even the novel string of H1N1, known as swine flu. The committee comprises school nurses, health teachers, representatives from Florida Safe and Drug-Free Schools, food and nutrition department employees and representatives from the county health department.
Hartner said the county got a grant early this year — before swine flu reared its head — to conduct seasonal flu vaccination workshops in district schools. With a short supply of seasonal flu vaccinations available, but expected to flesh out later this month, Hartner said that effort will get under way either in late September or early October.
Vaccinations for children ages 6 months to 18 years will be free, and given at six schools in Lee County on Saturdays. Parents will also be able to get shots for prices similar to what they would be charged at a local drug store, Hartner said. Seasonal flu vaccines are available now at many family doctor’s offices and some drug stores for normal co-pays.
“This is sort of like ‘Be careful what you ask for,’” said Hartner. “Back in April, the spring, the federal government made available flu shots for elementary school-age children. This was just super dandy and we worked the family flu night out. We wrote the grant and we got the money. ... And then swine flu happened. We may be bumping smack dab against H1N1. If that happens, we may have to be giving both at one time.”
If the timing does not match up, though, swine flu vaccinations will be administered at Lee high schools at a later date, said Sharon Warnecke, director of Health Services for the district.
Hartner said projections have the department administering 4,000 vaccinations a night to all residents in the county. Enrollment in the Lee County School District is 79,000 students.
Sheila Sarver, coordinator for Health Occupations students in the district, said she is hoping to get student practical nurses from the county involved in administering the vaccines. They would serve as extra hands for the massive effort, as well as gain practical experience and earn community service hours, Sarver said.
Vaccines may be a few weeks away, but the department is seeing between 40 and 45 cases of flu a day.
Health professionals are not testing to determine if flu is the seasonal strain or swine flu, but Hartner said doctors are being directed to diagnose flu-like symptoms as flu, and to assume that flu appearing now — before the regular start of the flu season — is swine flu.
School closings are still not being considered as a way to curb the spread of swine flu. That method was scrapped after a handful of schools across the country closed when the first cases of swine flu were confirmed in the spring, including at Spring Creek Elementary School in Bonita Springs.
“There are extreme circumstances in which you could talk about school closures,” Hartner said. “If they didn’t have enough staff or students to open, or a school with a high concentration of high-risk children: special needs or pregnant students.”http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2009/sep ... swine-flu/