South Mississippi preps for flu

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The scramble to find a vaccine for the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, is causing a waiting game for pharmacist John McKinney and his staff at Burnham Drugs. They don't know if they'll have one flu shot or two.

"It all depends on if they have the H1N1 vaccine ready this fall. If they do, I could perceive giving two vaccinations to a lot of people this fall," McKinney said. "I think during the fall and winter months you'll see both cases increase."

McKinney isn't alarmed about the swine flu pandemic, but he said his opinion could change.

"From my reading, its no more severe than the flu we have every year," McKinney said. "Now the concern is that that could change."

He said although it hasn't happened yet, it's possible the current swine flu strain could mutate into a virus that's more severe.  The flu season forecast is still unknown, but area schools are already gearing up. Crews spent the summer sanitizing schools in the Pascagoula School District.

Now teachers are wiping off books and setting out soap and disinfectant. Just a few weeks from now, students all over South Mississippi will fill classrooms. A school classroom is a unique situation where a lot of people will fill a small space for extended periods of time. Pascagoula school nurse Christy Tingle said there's plenty of potential for germs to spread, so its especially important that schools take a proactive approach to flu season.

That includes stocking classrooms and bathrooms with hand sanitizer and soap, and encouraging students to practice good hygeine. That includes coughing and sneezing into tissues or shirt sleeves and washing hands regularly. She said there's also plenty parents can do to prevent outbreaks in schools.

"We've encouraged our parents to try and get their kids the flu shot," Tingle said. "Just because everybody's worried about this H1N1, the regular flu is still out there, too. If they get their shot, that's just one more thing they have to worry about."

Tingle said it's also important to keep sick kids home.

"If the kids show any signs or symptoms of sickness, then they need to keep them home and not send them to school," Tingle said. "Just because we don't want to take the chances of spreading it or anything."

Both Tingle and McKinney don't anticipate a terrible flu season, but they said they'll be ready no matter what.

McKinney said there are certain people who are especially encouraged to get annual flu shots.  Those people include,

  • People over 50 years old
  • Children under 19 years old
  • People with chronic health conditions
  • People working in the healthcare field

He said flu season usually starts around mid-October, but doesn't peak until January or Febuary.

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