First Day of School
With all eyes on the first day of school, federal health officials are eyeing the schoolyard as the incubation point for the swine flu this fall. While the H1N1 does not appear to be more dangerous than typical seasonal flu, it could affect more people, potentially increasing the number of deaths.
And youngsters between the ages of six months to two years are particularly susceptible to the swine flu virus. Schools are likely to be issuing to parents some stern warnings.
First- keep your child home if they appear to have the flu. Washing hands should be encouraged at home and at schools. Hand sanitizers may become common place to decrease spreading the virus.
Any students with flu symptoms will be put in an isolation room with a surgical mask until their parents pick them up in Fairfax County, Virginia, according to the health department. Students are told to stay home and out of school if they have a fever with a cough or sore throat.
A mass immunization program should begin as soon as the vaccines are created and tested and it is determined who should receive the vaccine and whether it be given by nasal spray or injection. Some school sites will become vaccination sites.
Maryland has the most experience among states in fighting the flu, reports the Washington Post. In the 2006-2007 flu season, it offered the nasal-spray flu vaccine in all public elementary schools.
Spray maker, MedImmune is located in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and the company donated the vaccine. That season about 80,000 children were immunized.
Does it work?
One study published last year compared absentee rates in schools in Carroll County, Md. where 44 percent of elementary school children got the flu vaccine in 2005 to nearby Frederick County where children were not immunized. Carroll County the absentee rate rose from 2.5 to 3 percent while Frederick County rose from 2 percent to 4 percent.
Across the country, universities are making plans in case dozens of students fall ill.
This is a virus that disproportionately affects folks in our demographic,” said Dr. Anita L. Barkin, director of student health services at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh said to the New York Times.
Some universities are planning to create “flu waiting rooms” in health centers so students will not have to come in contact with someone exhibiting flu symptoms.
By following guidelines on www.flu.gov, most universities hope to avoid shutting down.
Universities may be asked to relax the rules on class attendance, though few are reportedly ready to take classes online.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that influenza-like illness had decreased slightly in the U.S. in mid-August from the previous week, but was still higher than previous years.
H1N1 has hospitalized 7,983 in the U.S. and killed 522.
Those born before 1957 appear to have some added immunity from a similar H1N1 flu that was circulating then. #