September 17, 2014

Flu season early and busy

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By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

This flu season is “earlier and busier” than recent seasons, said Dr. Ann Wittpenn, a pediatrician at University Pediatrics in Williston.

The Vermont Department of Health website reports that the state’s flu activity level is “widespread,” meaning at least half the regions in the state are reporting cases of confirmed influenza or flu-like illness.

Williston School District Head Nurse Lisa LePrevost said school nurses haven’t seen unusual levels of the flu, but she urged parents to take precautions and communicate with the school district. Williston Central and Allen Brook schools have had 15 confirmed cases of influenza this season, though not all parents report the illness to the school.

LePrevost sent an email to parents last week requesting that they notify school staff if their child shows flu-like symptoms. She also sent a guide to preventing the spread of the flu.

“The key for preventing the flu is just good health habits that can stop the spread of germs,” LePrevost said. “Avoid close contact with people who are sick, keep your children home when they are sick.”

Basic health habits like frequent hand washing, coughing into the crook of the elbow and keeping hands away from the nose and mouth can help keep students healthy.

“Adults and kids all need to get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, get plenty of fluids and manage stress as best as (they) can,” LePrevost said. “If we all work together, we can all keep germs from spreading and help keep the schools healthy.”

LePrevost and Wittpenn both recommended the flu vaccine.

“Everyone over 6 months should be getting the flu vaccine,” Wittpenn said.

Vaccinations are especially recommended for pregnant women, people 50 years of age and older, people with certain chronic medical conditions, people who live in nursing homes and long-term care facilities and people who live with or care for those at risk, including infants under 6 months.

Vaccinations are available at doctors’ offices, pharmacies and supermarkets, Vermont Department of Health district offices and college health centers.

For more information, dial 2-1-1 or visit www.healthvermont.gov.

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