As the number of confirmed cases of the flu continues to rise, the Greenwich Health Department is receiving a supply of flu vaccine for children.
Greenwich Health Director Caroline Baisley said, "The season is still cooking and we're only half-way through it. The state has released a surplus of the vaccine for children between 5 and 18 who are the most vulnerable group that's unprotected." She said that Gov. Dannel Malloy also has allowed the insurance requirement.
"We can give the vaccine to all children regardless of the insurance you carry," Baisley said. The town will charge an administrative fee of $21, which will be waived for those with HUSKY insurance. An appointment is required and may be made by calling the health department at 203-622-6495. The town also has 'high-dose' flu vaccines for senior citizens who are at least age 65, Baisley said.
As of Tuesday, Jan. 22, the town has had 121 confirmed flu cases. "The 121 cases is not a real time number because we don't know the number of cases of people who can't get out of bed and go to the doctor," Baisley said.
There's been an uptick in the number of pneumonia cases as well, according to Baisley. So far, there have not been any deaths in Greenwich attributed to the flu.
The Connecticut Department of Public Health has classified flu activity in the state as "widespread" with more than 2,460 cases identified and more than 460 hospitalizations in the past few weeks.
"It's been a very bad season. There is a Type A unspecified virus that is causing a problem," Baisley said. Although that Type A virus is not included in the flu vaccine, Baisley said it's not too late to receive the vaccine. "The vaccine is effective—the intensity of the symptoms won't be as severe."
Schools in Greenwich "are starting to see absenteeism in kids but in staff. If you have a fever, stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever has broken," Baisley warned.
According to Greenwich Public Schools spokeswoman Kim Eves, "We're definitely seeing an uptick in student absences. We've had 1,400 more than last year at this time. You can make the assumption that it's the flu." (For specific school absentee rates, please see attached PDFs.)
The flu has been attributed to a more than 50 percent in staff absences this year, according to the district. As of Jan. 23, there have been 604 teacher absences as opposed to 382 (or 58 percent more) for the same January period in 2012, according to numbers released by the district on Jan. 24. Teaching assistant absences because of the flu increased from from 129 in 2012 to 198 or a 53 percent increase.
The increased student absences prompted Greenwich High School Headmaster Chris Winters to send an email last week explaining that students who are ill will not be penalized by the school's absenteeism policy. (Please see attached PDF explaining the policy.)
*Editor's note: this story has been updated to include staff absences because of the flu.