Genesis Kicks Off 10th Flu-Free Quad Cities Campaign
More than 9,000 elementary school students in the region are expected to roll up their sleeves and help prevent the spread of seasonal influenza this season.
Genesis Flu-Free Quad Cities is celebrating its tenth year of the campaign to reduce the effects of seasonal influenza. The Flu-Free teams of nurses from Genesis Visiting Nurse Association will be visiting nearly 90 elementary schools beginning Monday, Oct. 3 to provide free flu protection.
“We believe elementary school students, who by the way are very effective carriers of seasonal flu, are playing an important role in preventing flu in Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois,’’ said Michele Cullen, RN, BSN, community health manager for Genesis VNA and Hospice. “Each student who rolls up their sleeve for flu protection may be preventing a baby sibling, a grandparent or someone they are around with a chronic illness from getting the flu.
“Vaccination is the best way to prevent someone from having the flu and also from passing it to others.’’
It is estimated that each person who is vaccinated against seasonal influenza helps protect up to five others from getting the flu.
“That is important because flu can be deadly,’’ said Ken Croken, chief marketing officer for Genesis Health System and one of the originators of Flu-Free Quad Cities. “Thousands of Americans die each year from complications related to seasonal influenza.’’
While young, healthy kids are not as susceptible to severe complications from the flu, they may be around people who are. At highest risk are the very young, the very old and anyone with a chronic health condition.
Cullen said virtually everyone older than 6 months old should receive a flu shot each year. The only exceptions, she said, are those with medical conditions preventing them from receiving a vaccination.
In the first nine years of Flu-Free Quad Cities, 65,140 elementary school students have received free flu vaccinations. The vaccinations are available with parental consent.
Julie Delaney, principal of St. Paul the Apostle School in Davenport, believes Flu-Free Quad Cities makes a difference in student and staff health.
Last school year, the program was offered to students in grades kindergarten through eighth at St. Paul the Apostle School as part of a pilot project. Delaney said the school experienced zero absences related to confirmed cases of flu after 22 confirmed cases the previous school year.
“We also had 1,033 absences for reported upper respiratory illnesses and confirmed influenza in the 2014-2015 school year,’’ Delaney said. “That was down significantly to 697 when we started with Flu-Free Quad Cities last year.
“On one day in the 2014-2015 school year we had 73 children absent. We had no days close to that in the last school year when the kids participated in Flu-Free Quad Cities.’’
Delaney herself was diagnosed with flu in the 2014-2015 school year when she didn’t have a vaccination.
Flu-Free Quad Cities is supported through donations and fundraising activities throughout the year. Those activities include sports team jersey auctions, the amusement rides available at Quad City River Bandits games at Modern Woodmen Park, and individual and corporate donations. Regardless of family income, the vaccinations are given at no cost.
Flu-Free Quad Cities is just one of the Genesis efforts to make the region flu free. This season, Genesis will provide nearly 50,000 flu vaccinations combined from the hospital campuses, Genesis Health Group offices, nearly 5,000 vaccinations of Genesis employees and the efforts of Genesis VNA and Hospice and Genesis Occupational Health.
“The year there is a blanket of flu protection over the region we will have been successful,’’ said Missy Gowey, executive director, Genesis Foundation, which raises funds for the effort. “Until then, we’ll keep expanding our efforts to prevent illness that is dangerous for the very young, the elderly and people with compromised immune defenses.’’
Flu-Free Quad Cities Historical Numbers
2007 (pilot) -- 400. 2008 -- 3,000. 2009 -- 9,450. 2010 -- 9,400. 2011 -- 9,400. 2012 – 7,974. 2013 – 8,010. 2014 – 8,700. 2015 – 8,806.