Flu Affects Millions of Children and Youth Each Year

Each year, 5-20% of people living in the United States contract seasonal influenza.1 While most people quickly recover their health, on average seasonal flu hospitalizes 200,000 and kills 23,600 people annually.2 Young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with other health conditions are particularly vulnerable.3

Pandemic flus—such as the 2009-2010 H1N1 (swine) flu—are even more dangerous because they are caused by viruses to which people have very little or no immunity. These viruses spread easily and rapidly.

Fortunately, by promoting vaccination and following other prevention guidelines, we can avoid unnecessary illness and even death. Although most children and youth are themselves at relatively low risk for flu-related complications, they spend a lot of time with younger siblings, pregnant mothers, and grandparents—making flu prevention critical.

Schools and School-Located Vaccination Clinics Can Stop Flu Spreading

According the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, schools can play a critical role in:

  • Encouraging flu vaccination for all students and those staff who are recommended for vaccination;
  • Suggesting early treatment for people at higher risk for flu complications;
  • Facilitating use of respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by students and staff;
  • Ensuring that sick students and adults do not come to the facility; and
  • Separating sick and well people as soon as possible.4

School-based health centers (SBHCs) can run school-located vaccination (SLV) clinics. Research shows that SLV can be an effective way to increase immunization rates.5,6,7 SLV also makes sense financially: rigorous cost-benefit analysis shows that school-based influenza vaccination programs pay for themselves by the end of the flu season’s “peak week,” and, over the course of an entire flu season, save society money by preventing illness.(8)

Resources for Practice

For tools to help you implement school-based flu prevention, see Flu Resources.

(1) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: http://www.flu.gov/.
(2) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: http://www.flu.gov/.
(3) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: http://www.flu.gov/.
(4) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: http://www.flu.gov/professional/school/index.html.
(5) Frieden, T. (2010). Memorandum Report: 2009 H1N1 School-Located Vaccination Program Implementation, OEI-04-10-00020.
(6) Gupta, R., Isaac, B., & Briscoe, J. (2010). A Local Health Department’s School-Located Vaccination Experience with H1N1 Pandemic Flu Vaccine. Journal of School Health. 80(7): 325.
(7) Lindley, M.C., Boyer-Chu, L., Fishbein, D.B., Kolasa, M., et al. (2008). The Role of Schools in Strengthening Delivery of New Adolescent Vaccines. Pediatrics. 121: S46-S55.
(8) Schmeir, J., Li, S., King, J.C., Nichol, K., et al.  (2008). Benefits and Costs of Immunizing Children against Influenza at School: An Economic Analysis based on a Large-Cluster Controlled Clinical Trial. Health Affairs. W96-W104.