Virulent flu strain strikes 3 Oahu children
STORY SUMMARY »
Three children in Hawaii have been diagnosed with influenza A, a virulent strain that has killed six children in Australia this year.
The isle youngsters seem to be recovering, but the outbreak prompted the state Health Department to underscore its warnings about how easily flu can spread at school. The confirmed cases come a week after health officials urged parents to sign up children for a free vaccination through a school-based program.
Two children who attend an Oahu private school -- a kindergartner and first-grader -- were diagnosed with the flu this week. A third child, 4, the younger sibling of two students at the school, was also found to have the flu.
Several other children at the school were also reportedly sick with respiratory illnesses, including one with pneumonia, but were not available for testing, said health officials.
Consent needed by tomorrow
Tomorrow is the deadline for parents to turn in signed consent forms for their child to receive a free flu vaccination at their school. Translated versions of the form are available at www.stopfluatschool.com to help with filling out the original form issued by the school.
FULL STORY »
State health officials continue to urge parents to get their children vaccinated after a cluster of flu cases struck an Oahu private school.
Three children were confirmed earlier this week to have influenza A, a virulent strain that can cause severe illnesses, said state epidemiologist Dr. Paul Effler. Children with the flu suffer from symptoms that include high fever, lethargy, cough, sore throat and shortness of breath. The illness can also progress to pneumonia, Effler said.
The illnesses show how the flu is commonly spread among schoolchildren and can be severe, he added. "These illnesses are preventable," he said.
The confirmed flu cases come a week after health officials encouraged parents to sign up their children to get a free flu vaccination through a school-based program to help reduce the flu's spread.
Health officials declined to say which private school the children attend, but said it is one of the schools participating in the flu vaccination program called Protect Hawaii's Keiki: Stop Flu at School. More than 250 public schools and 75 private schools in the state are participating in the program. Health personnel will administer flu vaccinations via shot or nasal spray at participating schools from October through January.
This is the first time free flu vaccinations are being offered statewide in schools for children in kindergarten to eighth grade. Hawaii is the first state in the nation to offer school-based flu vaccinations. The deadline for parents to submit consent forms is tomorrow.
Two students -- one in kindergarten and the other in first grade -- were confirmed to have the flu based on tests conducted at the state Department of Health's Laboratories Division.
Tests on a third child, 4, also came out positive. The child is the younger sibling of two students who attend the private school. The two students had illnesses and recovered before they had a chance to be tested, Effler said.
One of the ill patients is the son of an employee at the Department of Health, which prompted officials to investigate illnesses among other children at the patient's school.
Several other children at the school were also reportedly sick with respiratory illnesses, including one who suffered from pneumonia, but specimens were not available for testing, according to health officials. Some of the children who suffered flulike symptoms were out of school for as long as a week, Effler said.
Officials noted that they had not received reports of flu illnesses at other private or public schools as of yesterday.
Still, health officials are concerned with the upcoming flu season due to an influx of cases in Australia.
Six children in Australia have died so far this year from influenza A. Flu cases in the country tripled this year compared with previous years, Effler said. "That's concerning us," he said.
The high number of flu cases in Australia suggests that Hawaii could experience more flu cases this season than in previous years, he added.
The flu season typically occurs from October to March. But with the state's climate and tourist population, flu occurs sporadically throughout the year.