School Districts Prepare For The Flu - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

11/4/03 - East Texas

School Districts Prepare For The Flu

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is classifying the flu threat in Texas as "widespread."  That is especially ominous in light of last years outbreak.  It was this time last year that the flu forced the shutdown of several school districts in East Texas. One of those was Winona ISD.  One out of every four kids was sick. The district was actually the first in the state to call in the local health district to begin testing for the flu.

"They recommended that we just close school to give everyone a chance to disperse," said Kathy Irish, district nurse in Winona.  "That's what we did and it helped."

This year, things are decidely different. The campuses are teaming with healthy kids, and Winona hopes to keep it that way. They, like many campuses, are taking a more pro-active approach.

"I started off at the very beginning of school this year, talking about hand washing," said Irish.  "We talked to them about covering their mouth, covering their nose. We talked to them that if they're coughing excessively, stay home."

Most importantly, Irish is emphasizing the need for flu shots.

"The more we get the word out for people to get their flu vaccine," said Irish, "the better off everybody is going to be."

That's exactly right, says Dr. Stephen Garrison. He's the medical director of the Smith County Public Health District, and helped advise many districts during last years outbreak.

"The most recent thing sent to me about two weeks ago from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that everybody school aged should get the vaccine," said Dr. Garrison, "because of the experience we had last year with school closings, and this isn't just in Texas, this is nation wide."

The flu shot supply is plentiful this year, which is good news, considering experts are predicting this year's flu season could be even worse than last year.

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