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'They need protection': Doctors stress importance of students getting the flu shot

The flu shot isn't required in any Tampa Bay school districts, but it will be paramount for doctors to determine what kind of cold a child may get.

TAMPA, Fla. — A few weeks out from students entering school doors once again, pediatric doctors are bracing themselves for a possible new wave of coronavirus infections.

“The idea of zero risk for kids is just not a reality,” said Dr. Nancy Silva with Small World Pediatrics.

Silva and her husband, José, are concerned about this school year. The couple run their own practice in Wesley Chapel. Several of their patients have tested positive for COVID-19

“The overall percent positive for the state of Florida today is 13.16 percent, but when you look at the overall percent positive for pediatrics today, it's 15 percent. It doesn't mean that more children are positive than adults. That's not the case, but of those that are tested, there’s a higher proportion of children that are testing positive,” Silva said.

Pediatric doctors believe once schools reopen, the number of pediatric cases will just continue to rise.

From disinfecting buses and lockers to having kids wear masks and social distance, school districts are doing all they can to keep students and staff safe. But it might not be enough.

“The only feasible way that this can work is if we have testing. In my opinion, I think every child needs to be tested every day and the test results have to come back at least within 24 hours,” Dr. Jose Jiménez said.

So, for now, the doctors say there’s another layer of protection parents should add this coming school year. 

“We normally recommend the flu shot, but this is the year to get it because you do not want to be fighting two diseases that are in your immune system at the same time, nor do you want to have them one after the other. And that happens very commonly. Again, children share germs, they don't just share one germ, they share multiple terms,” Silva said.

The flu shot isn't required in any Tampa Bay school districts but will be paramount for doctors to determine what kind of cold a child is coming down with in the fall. While the couple braces themselves for a new wave of infections, they ask parents to stay vigilant.

“This disease is so easily spread that we just have to keep, be patient, keep our you know, keep our guards up and protect our children the best that we can,” Jiménez said.

Another way you can protect your child this school year is by keeping them home if they're not feeling well.

There are a lot of COVID-19 like symptoms parents can look for. Here is a list from Small World Pediatrics and the CDC:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If your child tests positive for COVID-19, the CDC says the child must be fever and symptom-free in order to go back to school. The student can return 10 days after their last symptom. If the child tests negative and still has symptoms, the same rules apply.

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