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— All students in Arkansas, including those in Gravette schools, will be able to receive free flu vaccinations this fall through a program sponsored by the Arkansas Department of Health.

Children will be required to have a signed state-issued permission slip to receive the immunizations for"seasonal" flu. This does not include the new H1N1 influenza commonly called Swine Flu.

The slips will be distributed as soon as they become available.

Robin Hilger and other Gravette school nurses will be giving the shots with the assistance of nursing students at Northwest Community College. Elaine Holloway, NWACC Director of Nursing, said the students will receive credit along with hands-on experience.

James Phillips, M.D., Chief of the Infectious Disease Branch at ADH, urges parents to monitor their children carefully for signs and symptoms of the new H1N1 virus.

Schools are cooperating in monitoring absences. At this time closing of schools is not recommended.

"More people are at risk for getting sick because it's a new strain of virus," Phillips said. "Although it isn't causing lots of severe illness, "We (ADH) are responding as if it were the seasonal flu."

The following are signs and symptoms of the flu: Fever of more than 100°, cough, sore throat, body aches, headaches and vomiting, nausea and diarrhea. Phillips advises parents to keep their children home until they are well. He added the child may return to school once the fever is gone for 24 hours without the help of fever-reducing medications.

"Right now the best thing to do is teach your child the importance of handwashing. Warm soapy water is best as are alcohol-based sanitizers. Children should be taught to cover their mouths and noses with a tissue when they sneeze or cough," Phillips added.

Dr. Andrea Kelly, superintendent of schools, said the district is prepared for the immunization process, which presently is scheduled for November 9 and 10. Dates for Swine Flu vaccination depend upon when the vaccine is available from the State Health Department.

News, Pages 1 on 09/02/2009

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