PARKERSBURG - Education officials are encouraging students and parents to take steps to minimize illness this school year.
Teresa Morehead, coordinator of health services for Wood County Schools, said school nurses begin in September working with students and staff to promote yearly flu vaccinations and good hygiene habits to prevent the spread of illness.
This year the school system will not be providing flu shots for students but will hold an employee clinic Oct. 26 at the City Park pavilion in Parkersburg.
"We're not providing any flu vaccines this year. That was grant funded last year only," Morehead said.
The Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department is offering flu shots without an appointment. The department accepts walk-ins week days from 8 a.m.- 3:45p.m. The health department bills Medicare Part B, Medicaid, PEIA, Unicare, Healthplan, Carelink and BC/BS.
Morehead said during the first two months of school, officials distributed 50,057 ounces of alcohol based-hand sanitizer, or about 391 gallons, to schools and facilities throughout the county.
Nurses also are continuing education programs, talking to students about proper handwashing, how to sneeze or cough into the crook of the arm, and to stay home if ill.
"Good handwashing is effective in preventing the spread of lots of illnesses, not just influenza," Morehead said.
Flu season tends to peak in January and February, often during the coldest months of the year when people are forced inside and remain in fairly close surroundings. Morehead said she expects numbers during those months and leading up to holidays to be higher than they are now.
"Now is the time when parents need to consider getting their flu vaccine," she said.
So far this season the area has seen few reported cases of influenza. State-wide the numbers appear to be low, Morehead said, but other illnesses have been reported.
State officials also are warning parents of the dangers of pertussis, also known as whooping cough. This fall all incoming seventh- and 12th-grade students were required to show proof of additional vaccinations, including the Tdap which contains a pertussis vaccine, in order to attend school. Officials already are working to inform parents of next year's seventh- and 12th-grade students of the required shots.
State officials recommend in any instance of illness children should be kept home for at least 24 hours after a fever has ended without the use of fever-reducing medication. School officials are asked to keep ill students and staff seperate from others and to routinely clean and sanitize often-touched surfaces, such as handles, light switches, desks and computer key boards.