Will flu accompany students back to school?

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SPARKS, Nev. (KOLO) Winter break is almost over and the Washoe County School District is bracing for the students' return and worrying what they might be bringing back with them.

"We're expecting for everyone to be healthy and to have no outbreaks or problems," says Dana Balchunas, R.N., the district's Director of Student Health Services. "We are hopeful about that, but we hope for the best and plan for the worst."

She has good reason to do that. While students have been absent from the classroom, they've been hanging out with friends and family in an environment where the influenza bug has been wreaking havoc.

"It's a germ convention certainly when students come back," she says, "and during the holidays there's a lot of travel across the country even, out of the country. Not only have they been congregating with family and in the neighborhood, but a lot of kids have been out of the country or other places."

"So they're bringing germs back from far and wide. So we really want to avoid sick kids coming back and spreading it to vulnerable populations."

So the school district, in fact everyone at your child's school, could use your help. They shouldn't be here if they aren't ready.

"Well, a child should be learning ready and so we call that a child who can attend, who feels good, who can participate in the lessons in the classroom. Kids who can enjoy recess, run around, participate in P.E."

All the basic advice applies.

"Hand washing, cough and sneeze in your sleeve. Keep your child home if they're sick."

And it's not too late for everyone--parents and kids--to do the one thing that could protect everyone. Get a flu shot. Many don't.

"I think there's a fear that the influenza shot can cause symptoms and that it's more serious to have the shot than not have the shot. Statistics don't bear that out. That shot is the best way to prevent a potentially serious disease in vulnerable populations."

That myth may be one reason why Nevada ranks dead last in immunizations, leaving a lot of people including children vulnerable to the flu.

One reason we're being hit so hard this season.

Doctor advises parents on keeping back-to-school kids healthy