Columbia County health officials are arming themselves to prevent another flu outbreak like the one the county experienced during the previous school year.
The Columbia County Health Department will hold flu-shot clinics at four schools this year. The shots have been offered to school employees in the past, but this year the health department is extending its outreach to pupils and parents, agency Administrator Phyllis Roland said.
"Since they had such a big outbreak in the student population last year, we thought it would be a perfect opportunity to let parents know that the influenza vaccine is recommended for children - especially those with high-risk conditions - starting at 6 months of age," Ms. Roland said. "We would like to promote it and make it more readily available to them."
The state's first confirmed cases of influenza B in 2003 were in Columbia County. The illness first appeared in middle schools in mid-January before spreading throughout the system and pushing absentee rates at some schools to 26 percent.
The illness spread, and higher numbers of absences were reported in several elementary schools and at Greenbrier High School. A 10th-grade girl at Greenbrier, who had existing health problems, died in March of complications from the flu.
The upcoming round of flu shots is being offered to employees, parents and pupils for $15. Pupils younger than 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
Julie Howard, the school system's nursing supervisor, said the clinics are meant to make getting the shots convenient for pupils and parents. She said the health department might even plan a clinic at a football game.
"We're just trying to keep them healthy," she said.
WHEN AND WHERE
Flu shots will be given at the following Columbia County schools. Officials advise parents to call the school or stop in to sign up before the clinics.
Reach Melissa Hall at (706) 868-1222, ext. 113, or firstname.lastname@example.org.