Back to school: Preventing kids from getting the flu

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SPARKS, Nev. (KOLO) -- "I have never seen so many people with the flu," says Sheri Peck, a local parent who says one of her adult children recently battled the illness. On this day, she is with her youngest kids at Bud Beasley Elementary School on their first day back after winter break. Peck says she worries about their health.

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"You know the chances are of them getting it now that school is in, it's really high," she notes.

But the Washoe County School District wants parents like Peck to know they are doing what they can to try to keep their kids healthy during what has been a bad flu season nationwide.

"Parents are definitely concerned, but we try to ease their concerns with the things we're doing within the school so that we can keep kids here and not sick," says Phoenix Stafford, a nurse for the Washoe County School District. "We are making sure kids are washing their hands frequently, we're encouraging teachers to encourage students to wash their hands, encouraging parents to encourage those things at home and making sure parents know to disinfect things. And that they're making sure they're getting their flu shots."

Heidi Parker, Executive Director of Immunize Nevada, says it's still not too late for people to get the vaccine.

"The flu shot could be the difference between ending up in the hospital or just feeling sick at home," says Parker.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says this year's most prevalent strain of the flu is the deadliest. Nationwide, 20 children have died from the flu this season.

Parker says parents should not be afraid that the flu vaccine will cause the illness. She says a flu shot can actually help prevent pediatric deaths.

"We know that kids who are vaccinated have a much less chance of actually dying from the flu," says Parker. "When we look at those pediatric deaths over the years, about 80-percent were not vaccinated.

There will be a free pediatric flu vaccine clinic on Tuesday, January 23 at Shoppers Square in Reno. It will take place from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. It is made possible through the Washoe County Health District, Renown Health and Immunize Nevada.

Parker says it is open to everyone.

"If they have insurance, great, they can bring it, but we're going to serve first come, first served," she says.