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Extra Studying To Avoid The Flu at School in MO

October 1, 2009

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Back-to-school routines are mostly in place, and now it's "back to basics" to stay healthy. Schools are often referred to as breeding grounds for germs, and some Missouri school districts already have seen cases of H1N1 flu.

Since a vaccine is not yet available for the virus, says Christopher Harrison, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Children's Mercy Hospital, frequent hand washing and practicing coughing and sneezing etiquette are more important than usual this year - especially since H1N1 is popping up so early in the influenza season.

"The question is, will it be sporadic outbreaks or is it going to be a generalized outbreak? That's what people are waiting to see - what Mother Nature is going to do."

Children's Mercy Hospital is one of five sites in the country testing the H1N1 flu vaccine for efficacy and safety in children, who are considered a high-risk group for complications from the virus.

The H1N1 flu vaccine is expected to be available by mid-October, but supplies will be limited. Harrison says those in high-risk groups should be first to consider getting the vaccine: children ages six months to 19 years, health care workers, people with weakened immune systems and those with chronic conditions, such as asthma. Interestingly, those in the 65-plus set are not considered high-risk, he adds.

"The reason that's different this time is that there turns out to be potential protection in people over 65, perhaps from a strain that might have been around in the '50s that we just couldn't document."

The H1N1 flu vaccine will be available through physician offices and county health departments. More information is available from Jessica Salazar with Children's Mercy Hospital, 816-346-1346.

Heather Claybrook, Public News Service - MO