Cape Girardeau County health center gets more seasonal flu vaccine doses; all given out Tuesday

Thursday, November 5, 2009
Kindergartener Graci Roberts tries to keep from crying while Amy Smith, left, administers an H1N1 swine flu vaccination shot Wednesday afternoon, October 21, 2009, at Mary Maud Hosea Elementary School in Delta. School RN Veronica Dodds holds Roberts. (Kit Doyle)

Late Friday the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center received a shipment it never expected to receive again this year -- additional doses of the seasonal influenza vaccine.

Health center officials had given up hope in October of getting any more shipments of the vaccine but made the most of the opportunity by holding a flu clinic for the public Tuesday. Within 30 minutes of the clinic's start, all 80 doses of the vaccine were gone.

Health center assistant director Jane Wernsman is doubtful the center will receive more this year.

"The same scenario could repeat itself where our provider in St. Louis calls us up and lets us know we can purchase more vaccines," Wernsman said. "We tried to get more vaccines [Tuesday] but were told they had no more to sell us."

From Oct. 3 through Nov. 4, Wernsman said, 463 confirmed cases of type A influenza were reported to the health center. Of those, five were H1N1 cases. One was under age 2, one was in the 15- to 24-year-old range, and three were in the 25- to 49-year-old range.

Since Oct. 21, health center officials have vaccinated students for the H1N1 virus in the county's public and private schools. Wernsman said that by the end of the week vaccinations of most students from pre-K through fourth grade should be complete. Other students are expected to receive the H1N1 vaccine in the coming weeks. Half of its 3,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine received through Friday were administered in schools.

Deena Ring, director of special services at the Cape Girardeau School District, said 90 percent of students have attended classes since Monday.

Ring said that some schools are at 95 to 97 percent. In mid-October the attendance level dipped to 80 percent.

"We did have a brief time where we had a high number of absenteeism, but nothing to raise a red flag about," Ring said. "You have to remember there are a whole host of issues that come into play that may cause absences.

"We're taking precautions like wiping down high-traffic areas and educating our students about sneezing and coughing into your sleeves," Ring said. "All those little things add up."

Most students absent this week at the Oak Ridge School District exhibited flu-like symptoms, superintendent Gerald Landewee said, though the attendance rate has not dipped below 80 percent this year.

"Like everyone else, we've been doing what we can to protect our students," Landewee said. "We're letting our students know what they should be doing to better prevent themselves from getting the flu as well as holding several flu clinics since last month."

Barbara Kinder, nurse in the Nell Holcomb School District, said only a few students have missed classes this week because of flu-like symptoms.

"We haven't come anywhere close to the situation where we would have to close down school," Kinder said. "Knock on wood, we've been pretty lucky."

Meanwhile, emergency rooms at area hospitals reported a significant number of patients with flu-like symptoms.

About 1,300 people who visited the Southeast Missouri Hospital emergency room in October exhibited flu-like symptoms, said hospital spokesman Mark Bliss. Of those who showed the symptoms, 203 people were diagnosed with influenza.

At Saint Francis Medical Center, the emergency room saw 408 people with flu-like symptoms in October, with 171 testing positive for type A influenza, according to Gayla Tripp, infection control coordinator at the hospital.

Hospital staff were among the first to receive the H1N1 vaccine. Wernsman said others in the community will eventually receive the vaccine.

"It's very frustrating and challenging not to have enough vaccines at the moment for everyone," Wernsman said. "We've been told that we'll get more eventually.

"Everyone needs to be patient and take the general precautions -- washing hands, covering your mouth while sneezing and staying home if you're sick," she said. "If you wake up and can't make it out the door, then you need to stay home."


Pertinent addresses:

1701 Lacey St., Cape Girardeau, MO

301 N. Clark Ave., Cape Girardeau, MO

1121 Linden St., Cape Girardeau, MO

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