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Schools ready to fight H1N1 flu

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Keep sick children home this school year.

Most parents are now fully engaged in their children’s school routine, but one concern still seems to be lurking in the background—how do you keep your children safe from the threat of the H1N1 flu pandemic?

Many local schools have taken action to address the concern by both educating parents and students about the symptoms of H1N1 and suggesting specific preventive measures they can take to reduce their chances of contracting the virus.  Scot Prebles, Superintendent of Granville Exempted Village Schools, issued a message over the district’s emergency call system—a system normally used to communicate bus emergencies, power outages and snow days—to stress the need for students, staff and parents to work together to reduce the possibility of a sizeable outbreak in the school district.  Other local school districts have taken similar measures to keep their students safe.  

For now, school officials want to keep schools functioning as usual, but they do have a few health-safety tips to reduce the spread of H1N1 in schools:  

·    Know the signs and symptoms of H1N1:  Symptoms include fever (100 degrees Fahrenheit, 37.8 degrees Celsius or greater), cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.  Some people may also experience vomiting or diarrhea. 

·    Teach children proper hand-washing techniques:  Children should wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand rub on a regular basis.  Ask them to keep their hands off of their face.  Set a good example by doing this yourself.
 
·    Teach children not to share germ-spreading objects:  Tell children not to share personal items like drinks, food or unwashed utensils and not to use other people’s personal items.

·    Teach children healthy coughing and sneezing etiquette:  Teach children to cover their coughs and sneezes with tissues, then dispose of the tissues in the trash.  When a tissue is unavailable, encourage them to cover up their coughs and sneezes using their elbow, arm or sleeve instead of their hand.

·    Keep sick children at home:  Sick children should remain at home until they have been fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing drugs.

If the threat of the H1N1 pandemic becomes more severe, school districts may implement additional steps to prevent the spread, such as conducting active fever and flu symptom screenings of students and staff as they arrive at school, making changes to increase the space between people such as moving desks farther apart and postponing class trips, and dismissing students from school for at least seven days if they become sick.  

On a positive note, an H1N1 vaccine is expected by mid-October.  It will be a two-dose vaccine, given 28 days apart.  Higher risk groups, such as pregnant women, health care workers and emergency medical responders, people caring for children under six months of age, children and young adults from six months to 24 years, and people aged 24-65 with underlying medical conditions will be the first to receive the vaccine.  There is also a possibility that in-school immunization clinics may be set up to help distribute the vaccine.  More information should be coming from the health departments in the near future.
 

For more information:    Flu.gov   Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   Franklin County Board of Health

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