GCS: We need your help

S chool takes precautions against H1N1 flu

“School and health officials say parents can help protect their children and prevent the spread of H1N1 flu as they would colds and other seasonal flu by taking the following precautions:

Teach your children to wash hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds (about as long as it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice). Be sure to set a good example by doing this yourself.

Teach your children the proper use of hand sanitizer. Gels, rubs, and hand wipes all work well, as long as they contain at least 60 percent alcohol.  Hand wipes must be disposed of properly. Always read and follow label instructions when using hand sanitizer. 

Teach your children to cover coughs and sneezes with tissues or by coughing into the inside of the elbow. Be sure to set a good example by doing this yourself.

Teach your children to stay at least three feet from people who are sick. That’s the same distance as a yardstick.

People who are sick should stay home from work or school and avoid other people until they are better.”

Parents are being asked to take precautions to prevent illness and make preparations in the event of illness or an increased spread of the flu virus, but officials at the Granville School District said classes will remain in session unless they are forced to close. 

Despite reports of the so-called ‘swine flu’ or H1N1, triggering concern across the country, the district plans to continue with classes but keep an eye out for signs of illness among the student population.

“At this time, the State health department has advised us that students who are not ill can continue to attend school,” Superintendent Dan Teplesky, said. “School will remain open. We will consult with health officials regarding best practices for infection control as well as cleaning practices for our schools. However, to keep the flu from spreading to more people, we ask you to keep sick children home. Any children who come to school with flu-like symptoms or respiratory illness will be sent home,” he said.

School officials said parents should have a plan in place to accommodate a sick child staying at home during the work day or for the event that a declared health emergency requires the school to close.

Health officials have said flu-like symptoms include running a fever (over 100 degrees F.), cough, sore throat, runny nose, or stuffy nose. Additional symptoms may be experienced with H1N1 flu, including muscle pain, fatigue and sometimes vomiting or diarrhea. 

“If (H1N1) flu continues to spread and more students become ill, health officials have said that it may become necessary to close schools for a period of time. It is important for families to plan ahead and prepare for the possibility that schools may be closed for some period of time,” Teplesky said.

Health officials have urged sick residents to remain at home as well, to reduce the chance of continuing the spread of any influenza while on the job.

School officials and the district’s doctor, Dr. Carl Beckler, continue to keep an eye on the situation. The school plans to provide parents and the community with any updates of important information.

“If you suspect your child is getting the flu, it is essential that he or she does not attend school or go anywhere else—such as group childcare, the mall, or sporting events—where other people could be exposed to the virus. Children who are getting ill may exhibit different behavior than usual, such as eating less or being irritable,” Teplesky said.

“Again, this is an evolving situation. The district continues to receive regular information and support from the health department, state ed., the State Emergency Management Office, and the county health department. We will keep you updated with pertinent information as it becomes available,” Teplesky said.

Buildings and Grounds Superintendent Brad Wood said the H1N1 threat was being taken seriously by himself and his staff.

As when MRSA was a threat last year Wood said additional hand sanitizers had been added in the district’s bathrooms. Wood said the H1N1 flu was being dealt with in a similar manner.

“We doing a normal, daily disinfecting routine,” he said, “We’ve always done that.”

“We haven’t gone beyond doorknobs and cleaning desks and surfaces.”

Additional cleaning was done over the April break when kids were not in school and his staff had addition time to dedicate to additional cleaning. Wood said at that time the schools got a “good top to bottom cleaning.”

Large animal veterinarians Dr. Roger Ellis and Dr. John McDermott each said that so-called ‘swine’ flu, H1N1, actually has almost nothing to do with pigs.

“It’s kind of a tag that’s been placed on it, but it’s not accurate,” McDermott said Thursday.

“It’s a complete misnomer,” Ellis said Saturday.

Ellis said the reality was the flu is influenza A, the H1N1 strain. Proof the situation is ever-changing, came about Monday when Ellis called the Sentinel to advise there had been a report that the flu might have crossed over to pigs in Canada, but that had not been confirmed. Although he said he had heard media reports about at least one country destroying its pig population, Ellis said there is not a risk to humans from pork products. Although this strain is a new version that is made up, at a genetic level, of parts of three or four different swine influenza viruses, this version was not believed to infect animals until reports Monday. Recent reports show the strain is proving to be less virulent than initially feared, he said, with a number of the deaths, particularly in Mexico, due more to the lack of available quality health care than the virus itself.

For more information on ‘swine’ or H1N1 flu, visit www.nyhealth.gov, www.schoolhealthservicesny.com or www.cdc.gov or the 24-hour toll-free hotline at 800-808-1987.

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