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Brian Stimson of The Skanner
Published: 18 February 2009

At the beginning of February, the Vancouver and Evergreen school districts experienced an increase in the number of respiratory infections among students.
After reporting a high of nearly 30 percent absenteeism in some schools, Dr. Alan Melnick, of Clark County Public Health, said the illnesses are now ebbing to normal.
"It was typical respiratory illness," Melnick said.
While the wave of illness seems to have receded so far, health officials continue to warn students about ways to reduce further outbreaks. Melnick said flu season is not over and can easily last well into the spring. He urges everyone who has not received a flu vaccine to get one.
In Portland, school and county officials are staying vigilant about encouraging prevention – washing hands, coughing into your sleeve, staying at home when you're ill, etc.
Portland Public Schools Spokesman Matt Shelby said sickness-related absenteeism is about normal for this time of year.
"We're not seeing the numbers anywhere near what our friends up north are seeing," Shelby said. He said the highest rate last week was at about 10 percent for West Sylvan Middle School. The district keeps regular communication with the Multnomah County Health Department on the prevalence of communicable diseases.
Portland's School-Based Health Clinics also do their part to reduce the prevalence of illness and treat the sick.
Jill Daniels, the director of School-Based Health Clinics, says this year children were sent notes home to promote the flu vaccine. Apparently, many school children would rather risk getting the flu than get a shot.
"We didn't get the response we wanted," Daniels says.
In the future, school-based health providers will try a more personal approach, identifying the most at-risk children – those with asthma or other chronic conditions – and checking with family members to see if care is available through private health care providers.
Melnick said they've had similar reactions in Clark County from students in regard to flu shots – school-aged children aren't receiving vaccinations in large numbers. Clark County does not have school-based health clinics.
The free Portland school clinics provide basic primary medical care at 13 schools to any school-age child -- even those in home or private school. Melnick said Clark County recently opened the Sea Mar Community Health Clinic, which caters to the needs of many of the 40,000 uninsured people in the county.
Daniels says many uninsured students look to school or community clinics as the only place to go for health care. The same is true for a family who can no longer afford deductibles and co-pays that accompany private insurance.
"We are the safety net for these children," she said.

Health Services, Vancouver

Sea Mar Clinics, Vancouver
7410 Delaware Lane

1601 E. Fourth Plain Blvd.
Building 17, Suite 307
Of visit www.seamar.org.

School-Based Health Clinics, Portland

Located at Roosevelt , Parkrose, Marshall, Madison, Jefferson, Grant, Cleveland and Eastside School high schools; and George Middles School, Clarendon/Portsmouth K-8, Lane Middle School and Clark K-8 at Binnsmead.
Contact schools for information and hours. Or visit www.mchealth.org/sbhc.


Health Tips

• Wash hands regularly. Assist small children in washing hands;
• Cover your mouth with a sleeve or disposable tissue when coughing. Don't cough into your bare hand;
• Stay at home when you are sick;
• Clean keyboards, door handles, remote controls and other surfaces regularly.


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