Note from the New Mexico Department of Health
Flu is still spreading in all regions of the state, and we have not yet reached peak activity. During the first week of January, the percent of visits to outpatient medical clinics for flu-like symptoms was higher and earlier than the peak in the 2017-18 season, which at the time was the most severe season in 10 years.
Influenza hospitalization rates are also higher than expected for this time of year, especially in children 0-4 years old. The rate of hospitalization for flu in New Mexico is more than double the national rate in this age group.
This flu season, while expected to continue for several more months, is already unusual for how early in the season influenza became widespread. While multiple strains of influenza virus are circulating nationally, the dominant strains are B Victoria, a type which normally does not predominate until springtime in a typical season, and A(H1N1). Cases associated with these strains may peak at different times.
“Fortunately, this seasonal flu vaccine covers multiple strains, including the ones currently circulating, and it is not too late to get vaccinated,” said NMDOH Cabinet Secretary Kathy Kunkel. “The flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your family from influenza and given the fact that this season hasn’t peaked yet, we strongly encourage you to get vaccinated if you haven’t already.”
Reducing the spread of flu takes a community effort. The Department of Health recommends everyone six months of age and older get flu vaccine each flu season. It is especially important for the following groups of people, either because they are at high risk of having serious flu-related complications, or because they live with or care for people at high risk for complications:
- Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
- Children aged 6 months through 8 years who have never been vaccinated against influenza, or have an unknown vaccination history, should receive two doses of influenza vaccine, administered at least 4 weeks apart
- Pregnant women (all trimesters), and up to two weeks post-partum
- People ages 50 years and older
- People of any age with medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, lung or heart disease, and those who are immunocompromised
- People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including healthcare personnel and caregivers of babies younger than six months
- American Indians and Alaskan Natives
- People who are morbidly obese
In addition to getting vaccinated, NMDOH also recommends the following to help prevent catching or spreading influenza:
- Wash your hands and your children’s hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after contact with other people and before eating
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or sleeve
- Clean your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer after blowing your nose, sneezing, or coughing, even if you use a tissue
- Stay home if you have fever and/or respiratory symptoms
- Ask your doctor about antiviral medicines if you seek medical care for flu. These medicines are most effective if given within two days of your symptoms starting, but may still help even after two days
Even if you’ve already had the flu this season, getting a flu shot can still help prevent getting sick again with another strain. Check with your health care provider about flu vaccines. To find out more about flu vaccination clinics throughout New Mexico, you can go to HealthMap Vaccine Finder at https://vaccinefinder.org/ or go to the NMDOH website: http://nmhealth.org/about/phd/idb/imp/fluv/.
Immunizations for school entry are required by NM state law (NMSA 1978, 24-5-2) If you receive a Health Record Update from the Nurse, please submit documentation that the immunizations were given OR make an appointment without delay to have the immunizations given. Submit documentation directly to the Nurses Office. Please visit the following link for a list of required immunization: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=2ahUKEwjjmcXw8qXkAhUCXKwKHel9DJ4QFjABegQIAxAC&url=https%3A%2F%2Fnmhealth.org%2Fpublication%2Fview%2Fregulation%2F455%2F&usg=AOvVaw1dr8rNEcfDvI46vIMcFrid
When to Keep Your Child Home
The following are guidelines to help you know when to keep your child home:
- Fever: A child with a temperature of 100.0 or more should not be sent to school. Do not send him/her back to school until they are fever free for 24 hours without the help of medicine.
- Common Cold: Children with heavy cold symptoms and hacking coughs should remain at home.
- Sore Throat: Children with a sore throat without other symptoms may attend school. A sore throat with white spots present, or with a fever should stay at home. Contact your child's doctor for evaluation.
- Rashes: If your child has a rash that you can't identify, check with your doctor to ensure that it is not contagious before sending him/her to school.
- Vomiting and Diarrhea: Keep child home for 24 hours after vomiting and diarrhea have stopped. Consult your doctor for persistent or severe stomach aches.
- Toothache: have your child seen by a dentist as soon as possible.
- Earache: contact your child's doctor as soon as possible
- Headache: Unless severe, child usually can come to school.
- Pediculosis (lice): The presence of lice infestations is usually easily recognized. Intense itching of the scalp is usually the main complaint. Examine the child's hair about 1/4 to 1/2 inch from the scalp. Nits (eggs), if present, will be firmly attached at this location, especially behind the ears and at the nape of the neck. Lice are tiny gray insect like parasites. They walk on the scalp. Children may return to school after treatment with a lice shampoo and combing out with a lice comb for nits. No live lice may be present per district policy. Students should be brought to the School Nurses Office for a head check prior to classroom re-entry.
- Medications: all medications given at school must be given by the school nurse by State Law. If your child has the diagnosis of asthma, diabetes, seizure, food allergies, or life threatening allergy we MUST have the appropriate forms and medication on file in the Nurses Office.
Please encourage your child not to share water bottles, chapstick, food, or other items that go in or near the mouth with other students at school. Common illnesses that are spread by sharing include: strep throat, colds, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Chariti Sanchez MSN-Ed, RN
Lori Ortiz MA