Polk County Schools prepare for potential impact of swine flu

Published 5:27 pm Thursday, August 27, 2009

Miller says it&squo;s unclear when or how vaccines may be delivered, and they are waiting for further guidance.

The federal government has reportedly ordered 195 million doses of the vaccine, and should have the first batch available by mid-October. The government has advised that two doses of the vaccine two weeks apart will be required for anyone who chooses to take the vaccine.

Medical personnel across the country are working this year to address the usual flu strains and the new H1N1 strain, which appears to affect a wider range of people, regardless of health or age.

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School officials are urging students to keep their hands sanitized, cover their coughs and sneezes and stay home when they are sick.

Supt. Miller says students and parents should refer to information at www.polk.k12.nc.us. for more information about H1N1 (see also a letter on p. 6 sent by Supt. Miller to parents in April). He says the school system will continue to update the information as it receives more guidance.&bsp;Polk County Schools Supt. Bill Miller sent the following letter to parents on April 30 of this year regarding the H1N1 virus. He says the guidance remains applicable today.

Dear Parents,

This letter is to inform you that the State of North Carolina has entered a heightened surveillance stage resulting from the presence of a swine flu virus that is making people sick in several states, and also in Mexico.

At this time, the state and local health departments have advised us that students can continue to come to school, as long as they are not sick and do not think they have flu symptoms. Flu-like symptoms include: fever (over 100 degrees F), feverishness and a cough, sore throat, runny nose, or stuffy nose. Additional symptoms may be experienced with swine flu, including muscle pain, fatigue, and sometimes vomiting or diarrhea.

Flu spreads easily. If you suspect your child is getting the flu, it is important that he/she does not attend school or go anywhere else – such as group childcare, the mall, or sporting events – where other people would be exposed to flu germs. It is also important to teach your children how to reduce their risk of getting the flu and protect others from infection.

&ull; Teach your children to wash their hands often. Washing with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds is ideal (that&squo;s about as long as it takes to sing the &dquo;Happy Birthday&dquo; song twice).

&ull; 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 lable instructions when using hand sanitizer.

&ull; Teach your children to keep their hands away from their face and avoid touching their mouth, nose or eyes.

&ull; Teach your children to cover coughs and sneezes with tissues or by coughing into the inside of their elbow. Cough or sneeze into your sleeve – not into your hands!

&ull; Help your children to learn these healthy habits by setting a good example and always doing them yourself.

If we all practice good hygiene, health officials believe we can limit the spread of swine flu in our school at this time. We are consulting with local health officials regarding best cleaning practices for infection control in our buildings.

While the current situation does not warrant school closure, if swine flu continues to spread and more students become ill, it may become necessary to close schools for a period of time. We are working with medical staff in schools and with public health officials to monitor the situation here and will make all decisions in consultation with them. We will inform parents immediately if the situation changes and it becomes necessary to close schools.

If schools are closed, please do not make arrangements – such as sending children to a friend&squo;s home or group childcare – that will put them in close contact with other children. It is important to plan ahead. Have a family discussion now to consider options in advance of the event of a school closing.

Please stay informed by paying attention to media reports. You may also get information at www.cdc.gov, www.ncpublichealth.com, or CARE LINE, the toll-free number that North Carolinians can use to get answers to their questions. The CARE LINE number is 1-800-662-7030.

As new information becomes available, information will be posted on our website www.polk.k12.nc.us.

Thank you for your cooperation in keeping our children and our schools healthy.