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By Dr. John Urkevich, Executive Director

As the new school year has begun, concerns about Influenza A and H1N1 are high amongst schools, families and communities. Cooperating School Districts is monitoring the situation closely, communicating regularly with our member districts as well as the St. Louis County, Jefferson County, St. Charles County Departments of Health.

As you can see on the charts below from St. Louis County Department of Health for the month of September, influenza cases are increasing each week, and students in K-12 schools are most affected. According to Dr. Dolores Gunn, Director of the St. Louis County Department of Health, this number of flu cases is unusually high for this time of year; usually flu season starts mid-October In addition, the distribution of reported flu cases to date is concentrated more highly in younger age groups than would typically be the case.

flu charts

According to the St. Louis County Department of Health, surveillance sites (which includes all hospitals located in the county, pediatric practices, ambulatory care facilities, and a university student health center) reported 215 cases of influenza A for the week ending September 27, including 6 cases of 2009 H1N1 influenza. It should be noted that very few influenza A cases are being tested for the 2009 H1N1 (which is a type A infuenza), and that the actual number of cases may be much higher.

h1h1 chart

Many agencies are working to get up to date information to the community on the flu and H1N1. For example, Missouri’s Department of Health & Human Services created a flu campaign called WHACK The Flu! that teaches school children to help protect themselves and others from illness by using effective hygiene habits:

W: Wash your hands often;
H:  Home is where you stay when you are sick;
A:  Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth;
C:  Cover your coughs and sneezes;
K:  Keep your distance from people who are coughing or sneezing.

For more information and to access free materials, please visit http://www.dhss.mo.gov/WHACK/.

When visiting http://flu.gov, you can find information for “individuals and families” that includes tips on vaccination, prevention and treatment, and care giving. Under the section “for professionals,” there are links for community planning, school planning, and hospital planning.

Over a dozen resources can be found on CSD’s H1N1 webpage. In addition, information is being added to Education Today’s side bar (see upper right).