Immunize kids for healthier parents
It turns out one of the best ways to avoid the flu this year is to make sure your school-aged child is vaccinated.
A University of Florida study found that when half of 5- to 17-year-old children in Alachua County were vaccinated through a school-based program, flu rates fell by 79 percent. In addition, the rate of flu in those ages 0 to 4 went down 89 percent, even though they didn’t receive the school-based vaccinations. Among all non-school-aged residents, rates of influenza-like illness decreased by 60 percent.
“The effect of school-based vaccination was profound, both on the students and on the community,” said Cuc Tran, a lead author in the study, in a news release.
The results of the study, which was published this week in the journal PLOS ONE, could help communities decide how to spend money, and who to target with vaccine and awareness campaigns, said Tran, a doctoral student in public health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu kills thousands of Americans each year. The cost of hospital stays and doctor visits adds up to about $10.4 billion.
Children spend a lot of time together during flu season, and are more likely to forget to practice proper hand washing, said Dr. Jennifer DeBruler, an Advocate Medical Group physician at Advocate Condell Medical Center. They also tend to stay sick longer than adults, she said.
“For all of these reasons, children may be more likely to spread the flu,” she said.
The UF study shows that getting school-aged kids immunized can pay dividends throughout the community, said Dr. Parker Small Jr., a co-founder of the study and a professor emeritus in UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute, in a news release.
“Flu is the last pandemic killer of mankind,” Small said. “Just look at all of the energy devoted to thinking and planning about Ebola. If that same energy was put into flu, you could be saving thousands of lives and billions of dollars.”
To avoid catching or spreading the flu, the CDC recommends:
- Get vaccinated. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get the flu vaccine every year.
- Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue away after use and wash your hands. If a tissue is not available, cover your mouth and nose with your sleeve, not your hand.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces or objects.Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill.
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