CLEARFIELD – Superintendant Richard C. Makin said he could not have been more pleased with the collaborative effort of both the Clearfield Area Schools and the Clearfield Hospital during the H1N1 Flu Vaccination Clinic on Nov. 7 at the Clearfield Middle School.
“The way the volunteers came together speaks volumes for our district and the community,” he said. He said the clinic could not have gone more smoothly. He said he has yet to hear any negative reports.
Makin said that the clinic provided 960 total H1N1 Flu Vaccinations, or approximately 30-35 percent of the district’s student population. He noted that the clinic was also open to both the St. Francis and Clearfield Alliance Christian Schools.
Makin said that Bradford Elementary had the highest turn out rate, while that for the high school was lower. He said they were not surprised by the less than 30 percent turn out among high school students. He said they suspect the high school’s low numbers are due to the inability to get parents to accompany their child at the clinic.
Makin also said that a second H1N1 Flu Vaccination has been set for Dec. 7.
According to a previous GantDaily report, Becky Short, head school nurse for the district, said they had been considering a vaccination clinic for the students during a Nov. 5 press conference. She said then the hospital helped the district obtain the vaccines by writing them into their own plan.
At the press conference, Dr. Gregory Sheffo, chief medical officer for the Clearfield Hospital, indicated H1N1 is the strain of influenza that doctors and hospitals are facing at the present time. He said it is expected that the more “typical” influenza will hit around the holidays.
He explained symptoms for H1N1 differ from the common flu virus in that it affects a person’s respiratory functions faster and causes fever faster. He pointed out that certain groups of people can be more susceptible to the virus, including asthmatics, diabetics, pregnant women and young children.
“The majority of healthy people will handle this fine,” said Sheffo. He added, however, that symptoms a healthy person might show are sudden shortness of breath, gasping and grunting.
He noted that in healthy children, the symptoms are similar. He said that some children who get sick then appear to be improving, but then the symptoms (respiratory problems/fever) come on.
“We’re looking forward to participating in that (clinic),” said Sheffo.
Jerry Pollock, deputy director of the Clearfield County Emergency Management Agency, said he was happy to see the working relationship between the school district and the hospital and other agencies in order to offer the vaccination to children in the community.
“I can’t stress the importance of this collaboration,” said Sue Stiner, infection prevention manager at the Clearfield Hospital. “The sooner we get this to the community, the less visits for children to the emergency room.”
According to Stiner, 40 confirmed cases of H1N1 have come through the hospital, with four of those people being admitted.
“It has been manageable,” said Sheffo.
At an Oct. 27 school board meeting, Short presented the school’s current management of the H1N1 virus. She said then that it was important to implement a plan. She said the school’s nursing staff and Makin had been in touch with the state’s Department of Health.
She said they have had doctor-diagnosed cases in the district. She said they have only had a single lab-confirmed case.
She said they need to establish plans to determine guidelines for school closure and home learning. She said they should consider staff absenteeism ahead of that of the students. She said around 130 schools are currently closed across the United States due to the H1N1 virus.
Makin said he has not learned of any established guidelines for school closure.
“I think it’s one of those things that we’ll know it when we see it,” he said.
Short said she has spoken with area doctors and pediatricians. She said that they are “overwhelmed with sick kids.”
She said health officials have observed a wave of the H1N1 virus in April, again now and are expecting another around January.
She said the H1N1 virus was initially detected in April and thought to be found in pigs. She, however, said the virus is carried in not only pigs, but also in both birds and humans.
Short said that the H1N1 virus mainly affects the 25 years and under age grouping. She said that most individuals who are within this cohort aren’t immune to the virus.
She said that in August, the school nurses participated in a Webinar in order to become more educated about the virus.
According to Short, the nursing staff met and reviewed information regarding the H1N1 virus with the district’s faculty. She said the Clearfield Hospital provided them with educational materials.
Short said they watched a video with the faculty and offered proper etiquette for washing hands and coughing. She said the faculty and their students should cough into their elbow.
On the first day of school, she said a letter was sent home to parents. She said they’re stressing students stay home if they’re sick. She said they should not return to school until they’ve been without a fever for 24 hours.
Short recommended that parents have their children vaccinated for the seasonal flu as well as the H1N1 virus.