H1n1 In Schools: Preparation — Not Panic

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The H1N1 virus is in the news of late and may likely be much more so as we get into the winter months. Now is a good time to look at what we can do together to minimize the impact to students and our schools. We also thought it might be a good idea to invite parents and community members to an information session at our auditorium next week.

As we know, flu can be easily spread from person to person. Therefore, we are taking steps to reduce the spread of flu in Payson schools. We want to keep the school open to students and functioning in a normal manner during this flu season, but we need your help to do this.

We are working closely with the Gila County and Arizona health departments to monitor flu conditions and make decisions about the best steps to take concerning schools. We will keep staff and parents updated with new information as it becomes available.

If the flu becomes more severe, we may take additional steps to prevent the spread such as:

• Conducting active fever and flu symptom screening 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.

There are a few recommended things parents can do to help when it comes to prevention.

Teach your children to wash their hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. You can set a good example by doing this with your younger children for as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday.” Really.

Encourage your children not to share personal items like drinks, food or unwashed utensils.

Remind your children to cover their coughs and sneezes with tissues or, if a tissue isn’t handy, using the elbow, arm or sleeve instead of the hand.

Schools unfortunately, are a good environment for infection to rapidly spread. These preventive measures can and will make a big difference in mitigating the severity of spread of infection.

Know the signs and symptoms of the flu. Symptoms of the flu include fever (100 degrees Fahrenheit, 37.8 degrees Celsius or greater), cough, sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache and fatigue. Some people may also vomit or have diarrhea.

Keep sick children at home for at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever or do not have signs of fever without using fever-reducing drugs. Keeping children with a fever at home will reduce the number of people who may get infected. Do not send children to school if they are sick. Children who are determined to be sick while at school will be sent home.

While to date, H1N1 has not produced symptoms that are more severe than seasonal flu, experts indicate that the rate of infection could be as much as 500 percent higher than the rate of infection for seasonal flu. This is why it is essential for schools and parents to work together in trying to minimize the spread of the flu this year.

For more information about H1N1 we will be hosting a community forum from 4 to 6 p.m., Sept. 2 at the high school auditorium. Dr. Bolinger from the Gila County Office of Emergency Preparedness will be the presenter.

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