With more kids getting sick, missing school and showing up at the emergency room, health authorities are offering the H1N1 flu shot to school-age children and opening a clinic to treat kids with flu symptoms.
Starting today, children between six months and 18 years of age can get the H1N1 vaccine.
Providing H1N1 flu shots to school-age children should help reduce the spread of disease to others and help protect all family members who may be at risk, the province said in a bulletin issued Wednesday.
"It should also reduce the risk of and help to address concern about severe illness and death in school-aged children."
Nine-year-old Jack Dunsford is one of those concerned kids who can now get the vaccine.
"I kind of want it," the Grade 4 student said Wednesday. "I don't want to get the swine flu."
Jack said he learned getting H1N1 flu could be deadly when he heard about a healthy 13-year-old boy dying from it in Ontario last month.
His mom, Jennifer Dunsford, said she wants Jack and his sister, Aimee, 11, to both get the H1N1 vaccine. Aimee is averse to getting the vaccine, but her mom, a nurse, is pushing for it.
"I'm more concerned about them getting severe H1N1 than I'm concerned about vaccine side effects," said Dunsford. "It's pretty awful."
City flu clinics reopened this morning on the heels of the first confirmed death from H1N1 this season. On Tuesday, Manitoba Health announced someone between the age of 18 and 65 with underlying medical conditions died of H1N1 somewhere in the province.
No further details -- including the person's gender, date of death, or where they resided -- were made public.
The person's death is the first H1N1-related death in Manitoba this fall in the second wave of the virus.
Last spring, seven Manitobans died of H1N1.
Twelve clinics in Winnipeg are slated to open at 9:30 a.m. and will continue vaccinating people on the priority list, including school-age kids.
Dr. Sande Harlos, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority medical officer, said kids are being offered the vaccine at the mass clinics, not in their schools, because they are more efficient.
"We had a lot of learning from the meningitis outbreak in high school," said Harlos. The logistics of staging that vaccine program a few years ago required consent forms from parents and was a time-consuming process, said Harlos.
Public health workers were able to vaccinate 45,000 students in two weeks, compared with 101,000 people given H1N1 shots in less than two full weeks, Harlos said.
If you want to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible, then mass clinics are the way to do it, she said.
In Winnipeg, Children's Hospital emergency department has been flooded by kids with flu-like symptoms.
"On a normal day, the ER for children will see between 100 and 120 kids," said WRHA spokeswoman Heidi Graham. "They've had from 160 to over 190," in the past two weeks, and about one half with influenza-like illness.
To take some of the pressure off the Children's ER, the WRHA is opening a satellite clinic in Children's Hospital tonight and Friday night from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, it opens from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. Patients will still be asked to go to the Children's emergency department, where they will be registered and escorted to the satellite clinic. There, they will be seen and treated by medical staff as quickly as possible.
"This is a way to help decrease crowding in the ER," said Graham.
Late last week, there were 24 Manitoba schools reporting higher-than-usual absence levels, down slightly from the 27 earlier.
The province first directed school divisions to post daily school-by-school reports on their websites more than three weeks ago.
The Manitoba Junior Hockey League also began asking its teams to report higher-than-usual absences of players with the flu.
On Tuesday night, the Waywayseecappo Wolverines and the Neepawa Natives of the MJHL had their games postponed because of the flu. League commissioner Kim Davis said that several of the Wolverines came down with the flu and two have confirmed H1N1 virus.
The previous Tuesday, it was the Neepawa MJHL team that was sidelined by flu when 16 or 17 players and coaches got sick and, again, there were a couple of confirmed H1N1 cases, said Davis. He said the Neepawa team is back to normal, and Waywayseecappo is on the mend.
"We hope this is the end of it," said Davis.
"We've not heard from any other teams in the league about a large number of players being ill."
-- with files from Jen Skerritt
Consent form for older teens
H1N1 clinics would prefer those under 18 came with a parent but will vaccinate older teens on their own with a signed consent form that they've downloaded from the Internet. Links to the information needed to make informed consent and the consent forms can be found by calling Health Links at 788-8200 or toll-free 1-888-315-9257.
-- Source: WRHA