Preparing for back-to-school swine flu flare-ups, vaccine expected in late Fall

Betty White
Betty White
Dr. Sarah Park
Dr. Sarah Park
Lanaki and Nahenahe Kalauli
Lanaki and Nahenahe Kalauli

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Hawaii could be in store for more swine flu flare-ups, now that thousands of kids are going back to school this week.

Last Spring, the Department of Education reported at least 33 confirmed cases, in 16 of Hawaii's public schools. 11 of the cases were at Anuenue School.

Several schools across the island open as early as Tuesday. On top of the swine flu threat, there's the regular flu season, which starts in the Fall. So schools could potentially see more sick students than when the pandemic first hit.

"Wash our hands and stay home when you're sick," said Lanaki and Nahenahe Kalauli, students at Anuenue School.

It's a lesson schools underscored when swine flu first hit, with Anuenue school suffering the brunt of confirmed cases.

But educators say they are not entering the new school year in a panic.

"I don't want to sound too uncivic minded but we're actually not going to do anything out of the ordinary. We will do the usual things, making sure the girls have good hygiene," said Betty White, Principal at Sacred Hearts Academy,"a big move in the Fall of course is to get them to take the flu shots."

White says they did have a case during summer school.

"I don't think it was a Sacred Hearts student, it was a student who happened to be going to summer school here and we called the Department of Health (DOH) and they told us exactly what to do and that was it," she said.

DOH says students could soon get the swine flu vaccine.

"It's likely that the groups that will be prioritized will be school kids, pregnant women, and non-elderly adults who have underlying medical disease," said Dr. Sarah Park, State Epidemiologist with DOH.

The World Health Organization says in most countries, the majority of swine flu cases are younger people, with the median age at 12 to 17 years old.

But so far in Hawaii, the four swine flu deaths were adults, late 40's and older, who had underlying medical conditions.

School aged children should note, the Centers for Disease Control says those 18 years and younger infected with the H1N1 virus should not take aspirin, due to the risk of Reye's Syndrome.

"It's serious business. The case that was reported this summer, I believe the doctor said that they had to be home for seven days," said White.

DOH says the swine flu vaccine should be available in October, possibly mid-November. And the priority list for it is expected to be in next week.