H1N1 having little impact on schools so far

The Vermillion School Board learned at its meeting Monday night that the H1N1 flu has not had a dramatic effect on school attendance.
That could, however, quickly change.

"I should note that our attendance in all buildings in normal right now," Superintendent Mark Froke said. "It really hasn't hit us the way some school districts have been hit."

"I think we're just on the cusp of starting to see some real numbers of kids (catching the flu)," said Matt Lavin, school board member and local pharmacist. "We're hitting where we're in the incubation period after the first exposure. After you start getting the second and third wind of it, we will start to see numbers of students not in attendance, or needing to go home, going up."

Froke noted that it is important for all children to receive a flu shot, and he urged parents to take advantage of an upcoming immunization clinic that will be held at Vermillion High School.

"There will be a flu immunization clinic for Vermillion area infants and children on Thursday, Oct. 29, from 2 to 7 p.m. at the Vermillion High School auxiliary gym," he announced at the meeting. "The clinic will administer both seasonal flu vaccine and H1N1 flu vaccine."

The clinic will also exercise the local point of dispensing (POD) plan as well. Vermillion is one of 30 POD sites organized by the state to quickly get medications to a larger population in the event of a large infectious disease outbreak or other public health emergency, including bioterrorism and pandemic influenza.

The POD sites receive funding from the South Dakota Department of Health through its federal preparedness grants.

The Vermillion Area POD clinic will provide seasonal flu vaccine to infants and children ages 6 months through 18 years. H1N1 vaccine will be provided to the following targeted priority groups: contacts to infants who are under 6 months of age, infants and children 6 months of age through 4 years of age, and high risk children 5 years of age through the age of 18. There is no charge for the vaccine.

Parental consent is required for children younger than 18 so children should be accompanied by their parents.

"A lot of work has been going in the planning of this clinic," Froke said. "I hope folks take advantage of this for their children. H1N1 seems to hit the younger more so than any of the other age groups, so it's important that children be vaccinated."

Lavin noted that approximately a year of work has been devoted to planning the POD drill. "There's been a lot of time and effort put in making sure that as much preparation ahead of time could be done, and it just happens to be that we have an influenza outbreak at this time. This was something that had been put in the works years ago, and reformulated to fit this model," he said. "With the vaccine coming in here at the end of the month, it's time to get kids in and get them inoculated.

"It's primarily a nasal spray this year," Lavin added. "It's not a shot. But shots will be available for the specific individuals who don't meet the criteria for the nasal mist."

Both local and state organizers want to see a strong turnout at the upcoming clinic.

"This will partly test the state's ability to see how many we can (inoculate) in a short amount of time," he said. "If we really needed to get 2,000 people inoculated, how many could we get done in two hours or three hours? We've had a couple flu clinics this year where we've hit 400 kids in a two-hour time frame, so it's doable. This is a great example of a drill that we actually need to do."

Organizers are seeking volunteers to help with registration and moving people through the clinic. Individuals interested in volunteering, or who have questions may contact the SD Department of Health at (605) 677-6767 in Clay County, or (605) 356-2644 in Union County.

H1N1 vaccine will be additionally offered through department community health offices, private clinics and other community clinics as it becomes available.

For more information about seasonal flu and H1N1 flu, see the Department of Health Web site at http://doh.sd.gov.

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