Geane Flournoy hopes positive thoughts fight flu this season.
"I’m thinking optimistically that it’s going to be a healthy fall and winter," said the principal of Gilbert’s Carol Rae Ranch Elementary School.
From Scottsdale to Apache Junction, school officials said they’re encouraging students to wash their hands and keeping their fingers crossed for a mild flu season. There’s not much else they can do, they said, in light of the shortage of flu vaccine.
Health officials said they might have reason to be optimistic.
"We are encouraged by the news coming out of the Southern Hemisphere that this flu season will be milder than usual," said Andi Denious, immunization service manager for the Arizona Department of Health Services.
The Southern Hemisphere’s flu season is just about over, and health care officials said the flu there was a milder strain than in years past.
Scottsdale pediatrician Ronald Fischler said he’s encouraged by the news, and noted that a shortage of flu vaccination does not make a public health crisis.
"This is a crisis only in people’s minds," Fischler said. "The flu is with us year in and year out, it’s nothing new and there are ways to avoid it."
He and other health care officials said students and parents who do come down with the illness this year should stay home because more people will not have the added benefit of flu vaccine.
"It could be a huge economic strain, but we feel people should bite the bullet and stay home," Denious said. "A lot of businesses put pressure on their employees to come in when they are sick, but they should reconsider because of the shortage of the vaccine."
Denious said she’s also optimistic that the shortage may prompt more people to heed the advice given "time and time again," she said.
"People need to take care of themselves — that means proper nutrition, exercise, sleep and proper hygiene to avoid the flu," Denious said.
And if that doesn’t work, Fischler said a big bowl of chicken soup goes a long way.
To avoid the flu:
• Wash hands often.
• Sneeze into a tissue if possible, or a sleeve.
• Get plenty of rest and eat right. A multivitamin also is recommended.
• Exercise and drink plenty of fluids.
If you get the flu:
• Stay home. Students should be kept home until their temperatures are less than 100 degrees.
• Drink plenty of fluids.
• Visit a physician, if necessary.
• Eat chicken soup.