With the flu season just around the corner, Carlsbad schools are taking action against the virus for the fourth consecutive year.

Yesterday, students of all ages were given a packet of forms to take home to their parents. "We sent out the parent information letter, vaccine information form, and the consent form through the homeroom classes," said Cindy Short, the school nurse at Carlsbad High School.

Students are expected to return the consent form to their teachers within the next few days.

Though it is difficult to predict what kind of flu season this year will bring, Tom Skinner of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta assures the public that there will be one. "We do know that we're going to have a flu season, and we know that vaccination is the single most important thing for people to do to prevent them from getting sick."

Short agrees, and is encouraging all parents to get informed about the flu vaccine. "Every year there are some forms of flu, and we try to target the more rampid ones. The flu shot only protects against selected varieties and we target the ones that are happening the most," said Short. "We've been doing it for the last four years, and the Department of Health is providing the vaccine for a lot of schools across the state that wanted to participate. We got on board and decided to offer that here at the schools."

The free-of-charge immunizations will take place at Carlsbad schools over a span of 3 days.


Crews will start out at 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 16 and will continue until the last school is immunized on Oct. 18. "It happens pretty fast up here. I have the biggest campus and we get it done in an hour or two," said Short. The vaccine will be administered by Eddy County Public Health Office nurses, EMTs and student nurses, and parents are invited to check out the schedule at www.carlsbad.k12.nm.us.

"We have found that schools offer an excellent venue for vaccinating kids," said Skinner, who is a part of the media relations division at the CDC. "It's convenient, and if it results in kids getting vaccinated we're in favor of that."

"From the school side, it's definitely worthwhile," said Kelli Barta, the Director of Secondary Education at Carlsbad Municipal Schools. "We've seen nothing but positive from it. The flu causes a child to be out of school for several days. Take seven classes over seven days, and that's 49 assignments a student misses." Barta also pointed out that at the secondary level, the make-up workload can be rather heavy when a student is out.

Although schools have done their best to promote the flu vaccine, the number of students getting immunized in previous years has been disappointing for the organizers. "I have almost 1700 students at my school," said Short. "The best turnout I've gotten so far is like 150."

But Short and other nurses are doing all they can to make the flu vaccine more convenient for those who choose to get immunized. Instead of the common injectible flu shot of the past, the school clinics are now offering a Flu Mist. "It will be sprayed into their noses so students don't have to worry about the fear of shots," explained Short.

"That type of vaccine is recommended for healthy people aged 2-49," said Skinner. An injectible vaccine will also be available for students with asthma or other respiratory health problems. If parents are unsure about either method, Skinner and Short both advise that a physician be consulted.

As far as attendance goes, there is no doubt that the flu vaccination will have a positive influence on Carlsbad's education system. According to Barta, "Healthy students are at school everyday, and that's our objective—to keep kids in school. Having it here at school keeps the parents from having to miss work and the students from having to miss school."