Fall 2013 Health Link Online

HealthLink Online

Uniting Children, Parents, Caregivers, and Health Professionals

Seasonal Reminders: Influenza

Seasonal Reminders: Influenza

 

Every fall, programs for children in groups face possible outbreaks of flu. Flu can be life-threatening. ECELS recommends that all early education and child care programs actively use measures to prevent this disease.

The best way to stop the spread of seasonal flu is to get flu vaccine as soon as it is available. Whether you get the shot or the nasal spray depends on your age, health condition and preference. The 2013 vaccines have either 3 or 4 strains of influenza virus material. If it is available, get the one with 4 strains. Both of the vaccines prepare your body to resist influenza.

Too many people believe myths about flu vaccine and about influenza. The vaccine does not give you influenza. It stimulates the immune system to recognize influenza viruses. While you might get a sore spot on your arm or feel a bit under the weather for a day or so, getting infected with disease-producing influenza is much worse. Influenza disease can make healthy people sick enough to miss months of work or school or worse. Sadly, each year thousands die from influenza. Flu vaccine could have prevented many of these severe illnesses and deaths.

Child care facilities should start promoting influenza vaccination in September and continue until everyone has received the vaccine or spring comes. With very few exceptions, everyone over 6 months of age should get annual flu vaccine.

In the fall, reinforce the value of practicing good hand hygiene and using an elbow or shoulder to catch a sneeze or cough. Flu viruses spread easily in group care settings. Adults and children in group care take the virus home and spread it in the community. Consider the risk that people who do not get flu vaccine pose to others while respecting their right to make individual decisions.

Act now for the 2013-14 influenza season.

  • Many people have health insurance to pay for flu shots. Consider arranging with a local pharmacy to give vaccine to staff members and families who use the child care facility. Offer to pay something toward the cost of the vaccine for those who don’t have insurance. The cost of substitutes, and lost revenue from prolonged absence for illness will greatly exceed the relatively low cost of influenza vaccine.
  • Contact your local health department to ask how your facility can find out quickly when outbreaks start to occur in your community.
  • Set up an alert system to share information when episodes of infectious disease increase in a group in the child care facility.
  • Use the Quick Reference Sheet about influenza from Managing Infectious Diseases in Child Care and Schools, 3rd edition to inform staff members and parents. This award winning, spiral-bound book has more than 50 easy-to-understand, reproducible handouts, sample letters and forms. Fall is a good time to offer useful handouts to families and staff members. You can order Managing Infectious Diseases in Child Care and Schools, 3rd edition from the American Academy of Pediatrics at www.aap.org. To order it by phone, call 888-227-1770.

Read updated information and download free materials on the website of the Centers for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov/flu, and http://www.cdc.gov/flu/freeresources/print-general.htm. ECELS suggests choosing the following three materials that might be particularly useful in child care: