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Students lift sleeve for flu shot

Warren City Schools team up with Akron Children’s Hospital to keep kids healthy

102516...R FLU CLINIC 3...Warren...10-25-16... Brigid (correct) Faulk, 12, 6th grader at Lincoln K-8, left, keeps an eye on Health Heroes nurse Elizabeth Spears of Columbus while receiving her flu shot...by R. Michael Semple

WARREN — Relax. Don’t wiggle. Give me jello arms.

Sometimes the hardest part of the flu season is the needle in the arm, especially for kids getting the syringe this year, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the nasal mist vaccine not be used.

But access and finding time to get the shot can also be problematic for parents. That is why Akron Children’s Hospital partnered for the first time this year with Warren City Schools to bring the flu vaccines straight to the students, said Michele Wilmoth, director of school health services for the hospital network.

Working with nurses at Health Heroes, representatives from the organizations set up shop in Warren’s four PK-8 schools on Tuesday.

The vaccination this year seems to be doing a good job of targeting the active strains of the virus that are popping up so far, Wilmoth said. Any kid whose parent filled out a permission slip was eligible to receive the vaccination, she said.

Najah Elam, 13, a Lincoln PK-8 eighth grader, said her parents signed her permission slip because the last time she suffered an asthma attack it was brought on by the flu.

“It makes it so I can’t breath, and I can’t sleep,” Elam said. “I was afraid of the needle, but I knew it wouldn’t hurt as much, or last as long, as the flu would.”

In the first year of the program, 10 percent participation per school was the goal, Wilmoth said. Not enough students at Warren G. Harding High School returned their permission slips for the program this year.

Jessi Locke, with Health Heroes, said whatever insurance companies offered to pay them for the shots, the organization took, meaning parents weren’t asked to co-pay or reimburse anyone for the shots.

The program is a convenient way to improve health and wellness in the district, without forcing students to miss school for an appointment, Wilmoth said. It also saves parents from taking time off work and gets vaccines to students who might not have access otherwise, Wilmoth said.

“The needle isn’t as bad as I thought it would be, it looked flatter than I thought,” said Kiersten Harris, 12. The sixth grader said her mom insisted she get it this year in hopes of preventing an illness that would keep her out of classes. And getting it through the school was less expensive for her family, Harris said.

The Ohio Department of Health starts collecting flu season data at the beginning of October.

So far, in the first two weeks of reporting, three cases of influenza that led to hospitalization have been documented in northeast Ohio, according the department’s weekly report on the subject. Last year, four were hospitalized with the flu in the region for the same time period.

One child died in Ohio during the last flu season, according to the reports.

Trumbull County had a higher rate of hospitalizations because of influenza than the state average, the report states.

Per 100,000 people, 31.89 were hospitalized statewide, while 38.51 were hospitalized in Trumbull County, the report states. Even more were hospitalized in Mahoning County, where 82.91 people per 100,000 were hospitalized from the virus. In Ashtabula County, the average was lower, with 25.62 per 100,000 residents hospitalized.

During the last season, there were 3,691 total hospitalizations statewide and 81 were in Trumbull County.

When more people are vaccinated, Wilmoth said, the most vulnerable people in the population are more protected from the flu’s sometimes debilitating symptoms.

Leading symptoms are fever, chills, cough, sore throat, running or stuffy nose, muscle and body aches, headaches, fatigue. Vomiting also is possible, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

rfox@tribtoday.com

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