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Schools on watch for swine flu; getting students who are sick to stay home a key to containing any outbreak

By Shavonne Potts
spotts@salisburypost.com
Health and school officials are in talks about the H1N1 Flu (swine flu), trying to determine the best ways to help decrease the spread of flu among students, faculty and staff.
The Rowan County Health Department is constantly monitoring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and talking with school administrators, said Health Director Leonard Wood.
“Our folks are working with the schools and doctors’ offices, educating them. It’s been quite a process for us,” Wood said.
The Rowan-Salisbury School System is following the recommendations of the health department, according to spokeswoman Rita Foil.
“Right now we are encouraging schools to follow the normal procedures ó handwashing, using a Kleenex once and discarding it, if you are sick stay at home. These are the basic guidelines for any safety/health procedures,” Foil said.
Wood adds if students are running a fever and believe they have the H1N1 virus or any seasonal flu, they should remain at home and away from any public place until the fever passes.
“They need to be at home and not spreading this around. It’s going to limit itself,” he said.
There is a vaccine available, but Rowan County can expect to see it sometime after November. He said there is no firm date yet.
Wood said once the vaccine does arrive the health department must take steps to make it available to high priority groups, which the CDC has identified. Those groups include: pregnant women, children six months to 18 years old, health-care workers, caregivers and adults with underlying health conditions such as diabetes.
Children who are younger than 6 months will not get the vaccine.
The main concern for schools is to keep the flu from spreading. Officials are reminding students about proper hygiene.
Officials are continuing discussions about how an outbreak should be handled. They are receiving recommendations from the CDC.
According to the CDC, the decision to dismiss students from school if they have been confirmed to have H1N1 will be determined by the school. School dismissals will depend on the severity and extent of illness.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages schools to dismiss students for three to seven days and then reassess if more days are required. Dismissals might be appropriate if a significant number of students are at school with a flu-related fever or as a pre-emptive measure if the spread is significantly high.
The school system will send letters to parents informing them of any major changes that would affect their child.
The H1N1 virus, which was early on called the swine flu, was detected in people the United States in April. Since then, the virus has continued to spread much like the seasonal flu, from person-to-person.
For more information about the H1N1 flu virus, visit www.cdc.gov.

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