Prevention: The best medicine

Published 7:58 am Monday, November 10, 2014

Ahoskie Elementary School fifth-grader William Jones receives a dose of the Flu Mist vaccine on Friday morning from Hertford County Public Health Authority nurse Sharon Roehl. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

Ahoskie Elementary School fifth-grader William Jones receives a dose of the Flu Mist vaccine on Friday morning from Hertford County Public Health Authority nurse Sharon Roehl. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

Two “squirts” and back to class.

On Friday, students at three Hertford County public schools were administered the Flu Mist vaccine as a preventive measure to help fight what local public health officials believe to be a very active flu season.

A total of 235 Flu Mist vaccines were administered.

Registered nurses with the Hertford County Public Health Authority (HCPHA) administered the mist into the nostrils of students at Ahoskie Elementary School, Riverview Elementary School, and Bearfield Primary School.

The Flu Mist is a weakened virus vaccine that is sprayed into the nose. Consent forms were signed by the parents or guardians of the children at each of the three schools, which granted their permission to allow HCPHA staff to administer the vaccine.

HCPHA officials stressed that the active virus in the Flu Mist is weakened to the point that it will not give children the flu.

“Our agency works with Hertford County Public Schools every flu season to vaccinate our children and hopefully keep them safe from this dreadful illness,” stated HCPHA Nursing Director/Co-Interim Health Director Diane McLawhorn.

Flu Mist was first introduced in 2003 as an alternative method (as compared to a flu shot) to help prevent the onset and spread of the influenza virus.

Influenza (“flu”) is a contagious disease that spreads around the United States every winter, usually between October and May.

McLawhorn noted that flu is caused by influenza viruses, and is spread mainly by coughing, sneezing, and close contact.  Anyone can get the flu, but the risk heightens among children. Symptoms come on suddenly and may last several days. They can include fever/chills, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, cough, headache and runny or stuffy nose.

McLawhorn and other health officials recommend that children, ages 6 months and older, should get an annual influenza (flu) vaccine.

“The vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu,” McLawhorn noted.

Some flu vaccines come as a “shot” and some as a “nasal spray.” While the flu shot and the nasal spray vaccine both protect against the flu, there is evidence that the nasal spray vaccine may work better in younger children than a regular flu shot. The Center for Disease Control now recommends the nasal spray vaccine for healthy children 2 through 8 years old when it is available.

The HCPHA staff was split up on Friday to administer the flu mist between the two elementary schools, Ahoskie and Riverview, initially and then came together at Bearfield Primary due to its larger student body.

At Ahoskie Elementary, one class arrived for their “mist” treatment and was able to return to their studies in less than 10 minutes. The majority of the students in that particular class of 5th graders had previously experienced the Flu Mist vaccine treatment.

“We give special thanks to the staff of these schools for their assistance in administering the flu mist,” McLawhorn said.

Flu Mist is currently recommended for all healthy persons at least two years old and under 50 years of age wishing to protect themselves from influenza and its complications, or to avoid spreading the flu to members of certain vulnerable groups. It is recommended for:

All healthy, non-pregnant persons, age 49 years and younger, who want to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill with influenza, or of spreading it to others who meet any of the criteria listed below:

Working or living with at-risk individuals;

Healthcare personnel or other persons who provide direct care to at-risk people (except persons in close contact with severely immunosuppressed persons);

Household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children age 0–59 months;

Travelers who may be among people from areas of the world where there is current influenza activity (e.g., on organized tours); and

Students or other persons in institutional/educational settings.

For more information about the flu or to get your flu shot or the flu mist, contact the Herford County Public Health Authority at 252-862-4054.


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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