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School Nurses Will Staff H1N1 Clinics

Some schools in Franklin County might soon play an important part in vaccination efforts to protect against the H1N1 flu virus. Local health agencies are planning to conduct school-based clinics to vaccinate as many children as possible. As WOSU's Sam Hendren reports, school nurses will play a role in the administration of the swine flu vaccine.

Franklin County's Health Commissioner Susan Tilgner says that school clinics are the most logical way to inoculate one of the largest at-risk populations for swine flu. "We're seeing younger and school age children being more affected by H1N1 than we do seasonal flu," Tilgner says. "So given that, we look at what's the best way to get a lot of vaccine out to a lot of kids in a short period of time, and the most efficient way is to work with the school systems." School nurses already work to detect communicable diseases among the 150,000 public school students in Franklin County. Since the swine flu outbreak, they've been keeping the health department apprised of changes in absenteeism. Deborah Strauss is a registered nurse who works for the Columbus City Schools. She's also president of the Ohio Association of School Nurses. "If we find a student with a fever over a hundred, also if we find a student who has fever like symptoms, perhaps some dizziness, some nausea, perhaps some other issues, those are some of the things that a professional school nurse is able to do in an assessment," Strauss says. "And determine that it does include flu-like symptoms." Statewide the ratio of students to nurses is about 1300 students per nurse. That ranks Ohio 43rd in the nurse to student ratio.

On average Franklin County districts have more nurses per students says Strauss. But it depends on the district. Reynoldsburg, with 11 buildings and 6300 students has two full-time nurses and several part-time. The Upper Arlington school district has seven full or part time nurses for eight schools. One of Upper Arlington's nurses is Nancy Kimnach, who says preparations for the clinics have already begun.

"Most of us have just had a refresher training on the flu shots and administering and that kind of thing," Kimnach says. Kimnach says parents will be asked to sign a consent form so that their child can be vaccinated. She also says there's some anxiety about the swine flu among parents and children. "Yes there's some fear and some panic," Kimnach says. "Obviously nobody wants to get the flu. And of course the concern is that the H1N1 is going to hit young people more and make them more sick." While the planning for school based inoculation clinics is on-going, health officials have not set dates yet. That's because they don't know when sufficient quantities of the vaccine will arrive. Franklin County Health Commissioner Susan Tilgner:

"When we get enough vaccine for the elementary school students, we will start there and vaccinate all the elementary school students," Tilgner says. "Then hopefully we will be able to do another round to reach the middle school and high school students. And then we will have to go back to the elementary school students because children nine years and under have to have two doses of the vaccine. Our goal is to start the very first week in November." Tilgner says information about the clinics will be posted on the website: Columbuspandemicflu-dot-org.