As concern over the H1N1 virus continues to mount, so too do local efforts aimed at combating its spread.

Vaccinations are now available for Oak Park residents through the Oak Park Department of Public Health, albeit supply is limited.

The Cook County Department of Public Health does not have jurisdiction over Oak Park and although it is “not turning people away,” Oak Parkers are being urged to explore other options because of the scarce amount of the vaccine, according to Amy Poore, the county health department’s spokeswoman.

River Forest residents can get the vaccine through the Cook County Department of Public Health by scheduling an appointment.

“The schedule is flexible and fluid in that we do not know when, how and what type of vaccine we will be receiving on a weekly and daily basis,” Poore said, referring to deliveries from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Oak Park Department of Public Health is now offering the injection form of the vaccine through appointments at community sites such as the main fire station and village hall.

The injection form of the vaccine is one version; the other is a nasal spray. While the former is being reserved for people with weakened immune systems or a chronic illness, the latter is being given to people from six months and 24 years who don’t have such conditions.

Both versions of the vaccine are available through the Cook County Department of Public Health by appointment at a number of locations.

Local municipalities and school districts are launching information campaigns aimed at raising awareness about the H1N1 virus.

Oak Park and River Forest High School is reminding parents and students that the best way to prevent the spread of the virus is to assume the precautions you’d take to battle any other flu, according to OPRF spokeswoman Kay Foran.

“All of our efforts at the school have been really focusing on that preventative aspect,” Foran said. “Parents receive mailings that have very detailed information on flu prevention.”

OPRF has increased the number of hand sanitizers throughout the building and has its grounds crew relentlessly cleaning surfaces, classrooms and restrooms throughout the school. The school’s Health Services Network is a communications system launched to pool information on the H1N1 virus. Whenever there is a health concern, staff and faculty members share information with one another and with the local health department in order to assess the risks, Foran said.

Another important aspect of this network is the scrutiny of absentee records.

Foran said this proactive measure applies to students and staff members who are absent; it involves contacting the person to ask about his or her condition.

Sheila Carter, principal at William Hatch Elementary School in Oak Park, echoed the idea of constantly reminding children of the importance of good hygiene, especially now.

“We have monitored the students washing their hands … they cannot enter the cafeteria until they have washed their hands,” Carter said.

In addition, the 3 C’s are announced over the intercom daily: Cover your cough. Clean your hands. Confine sick people at home.

Mike Padavic, director of special services for District 97, said that throughout flus season, school nurses are being sent into classrooms to remind students of basic prevention skills.

Although the school district is not offering the H1N1 vaccination, they are encouraging it, Padavic said.

“But it’s their decision,” he concluded, referring to parents.

District 90 in River Forest is also taking the educational approach along with more aggressive measures such as drawing out plans to close down schools if the absentee rate reaches 20-25 percent – unlikely, but Superintendent Thomas Hagerman wants to be prepared.

“We’re acting as though every kid has it,” Hagerman said.

As of Friday there were two confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus in River Forest: one at Lincoln Elementary School and one at Roosevelt Middle School.

“We suspect that we have many more cases at unconfirmed schools,” he continued.

Because of its limited supply, the vaccine is being given to pregnant women, people caring for infants, health care workers, healthy people 6 months to 24 years old and anyone 25 to 64 with a chronic illness.

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