OGDEN — The Weber-Morgan Health Department has immunized more than 1,800 elementary school students and faculty members for influenza this year, and more than 300 have received a DPT (diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus) vaccine.
Influenza season is here, and although the state has only seen minimal activity so far, it expects the numbers to begin increasing from November to March.
So far, from Sept. 30 to Nov. 3, four Utahns have been hospitalized for influenza.
“The official flu season is November through March, but in recent years, we have had reported flu cases outside of those months,” said Michelle Singleton, Weber-Morgan Health Department immunization program manager. “We never try to outguess the flu. Every time we try, we are surprised.”
The health department began giving seasonal flu shots in the elementary schools last year, Singleton said.
Employers, pharmacies and clinics that provide flu shots for adults and older adolescents don’t always provide the immunizations to infants and children.
“It becomes a burden for parents to take off work and remove the child from school to get an annual flu shot,” Singleton said.
“We saw the need and responded. We are going to all Ogden city and Weber County school district elementary schools. We also have a bi-monthly clinic held in our facility on the school grounds in Morgan. They will also be having a clinic at the school.”
The health department has visited about half of the schools officials plan to target. Flu shots are being offered to all students and faculty.
Siblings 6 months and older can also receive the vaccine if they are on campus with the child who attends the school.
This year’s vaccine covers the A/California/7/2009 H1N1-like virus, A/Victoria/361/2011-like virus and the B/Wisconsin/1/2010-like virus.
Singleton said plenty of vaccine is available. It takes about two weeks after getting the shot to build up full immunity.
Singleton said there are myths surrounding the influenza vaccine. For example, people have had experiences in the past with getting sick after a flu shot and thought the shot was to blame. Because of that, they refuse to be vaccinated again.
“In the past, people have often been immunized during the flu season and most likely had been exposed to an illness before getting the shot,” she said. “The CDC now recommends being immunized as soon as the vaccine is available. This avoids this problem.”
There are also other viruses circulating in the community right now that include stomach and respiratory illnesses. These are not true influenza cases, Singleton said.
Symptoms of influenza can include a 100-degree fever or feeling feverish, a cough or sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, headache, body aches, chills, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Although many of these symptoms are similar to those of the common cold, influenza symptoms are more intense.
“Avoiding illness takes a community effort,” Singleton said. “We need to be immunized to protect ourselves but also to avoid infecting others. The more people who are immunized within your life circle, the less possibility there is of being exposed to the disease.”