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Hart District Offers Help De-Mystifying Flu Season

khts_healthWith flu season approaching, the Wm. S. Hart Union High School District has posted an information sheet from the California Department of Education and a Question-and-Answer sheet on the H1N1 Flu on the district Web site, where it is available to parents and staff members.

 

Both documents deal with H1N1 (swine) flu and "regular" seasonal flu and offer ways to identify symptoms and prevent spread of the diseases. Tips for controlling spread of the flu include proper hand-washing, covering coughs and sneezes and avoiding people who are sick. Both staff and students are encouraged to stay home when sick, and remain at home until 24 hours after the temperature has returned to normal without the help of fever-reducing medicines. No doctor's note is required for readmission.

Although flu germs can remain on hard surfaces after a sick person coughs or sneezes on them, proper hand-washing technique is more effective than stringent disinfection programs. It is not necessary to disinfect these surfaces beyond routine cleaning procedures and cleaning solutions, according to Hart District Supervisor of Health Services Christine Amstutz, RN, MN.

Since screening for H1N1 flu and reporting of individual cases is not required, it will be virtually impossible to track the number of H1N1 cases in local schools as opposed to those with seasonal flu and others with flu-like symptoms. "H1N1 is the flu and the flu is the flu," Amstutz emphasized. "Stay home!"

The district's fact sheet and flu information sheet are available below or on the Web at http://www.hartdistrict.org by clicking on "Flu Facts" in the Quick Links box. District schools also are being encouraged to post a link to the documents from their own Web sites.

 

H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu) Information from the California Department of Education

As you may know, the new H1N1 flu has been circulating throughout the state of California, and it is likely that, now that children are back to school, we will see an increase in flu cases spreading from child to child. There is new federal guidance for schools that provides a range of response options for school administrators and local health officials.

This guidance, along with other information about flu preparedness and prevention, is available on the California Department of Education Web site at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/he/hn/fluinfo.asp.

We are all hoping that the fall flu season will be mild, but it is important to be prepared for all possible scenarios, including a widespread pandemic. If flu begins spreading to large numbers of people, state and local health officers will need to balance the risk of flu cases in the community against the disruption that school dismissals can cause in both the educational field and in the community.

At this time, state and local public health officials have advised that students can-  and should - continue to come to school, as long as they are not sick and do not have flu symptoms. Flu-like symptoms include: fever (over 100 degrees F), feverishness, cough, sore throat, runny nose, or stuffy nose. Additional symptoms may be experienced with H1N1 (swine) flu, including body aches, feeling very tired, and sometimes vomiting or diarrhea. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommend that all individuals with an influenza-like illness or symptoms should remain home until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications (like acetaminophen or ibuprofen), and should avoid contact with others.

It is also important to teach your children how to reduce their risk of getting the flu and how to protect others from becoming infected. If we all practice good hygiene, health officials believe we can limit the spread of swine flu in our schools and child care centers.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when sick and maintain distance from other people to prevent the spread of illness.
  • Wash hands often, with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds (that is about as long as it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice). Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are also effective in reducing the spread of the flu.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with tissues or by coughing into the inside of the elbow. Wash hands after blowing nose or coughing into a tissue and dispose of tissues after use.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth to prevent the spread of germs. Public health officials stress that it is very important to get separate vaccinations for seasonal flu and the H1N1 flu this year. The seasonal flu vaccines were already in production when the new H1N1 flu broke out, and it may be available as early as August or September. It is recommended that you and your family get this vaccination as soon as it is available from your health care provider or local clinic. The H1N1 vaccine is currently being tested, and may be available sometime between October and January. The H1N1 vaccine may require two shots given several weeks apart to provide adequate protection. Initially there may be limited supplies, and high-risk groups may be vaccinated first.

Thank you for your cooperation in keeping our children and our schools healthy. If you have questions about the information or recommendations in this letter, please do not hesitate to contact Christine Amstutz, RN, MN, the Hart District Director of Health Services, at 259-0033, Ext. 368, or by e-mail at CVA@hartdistrict.org.

 

Questions and Answers about the new H1N1 Flu Guidance

 

Q: How do the Communicable Disease Control's (CDC) new flu guidelines differ from the old and what are the facts?

A: The guidelines apply to any flu virus during the 2009-2010 school year. The H1N1 (swine flu) is similar to other flu-like illness. In the past year, it was no more severe than the "normal" seasonal flu, but appears to be much more likely to spread. Based upon facts and not fear, the new guidelines offer steps for parents, students and school staff to take.

 

Fact Students and staff with flu-like symptoms should stay home until at least 24 hours after there is no longer a fever or signs of a fever. This should be determined without use of fever-reducing medications (ibuprofen, acetaminophen)

Fact Anyone can get the flu. So far, with the 2009 H1N1, the largest number of cases has been in patients between 5-24 years of age. Students can and do get sick with the flu every year and schools may act as a point of contact, where students can easily spread flu to other students and their families. H1N1 is the flu and the flu is the flu...Stay home...

Fact H1N1 is spread by large respiratory droplets. Three (3) feet is an approximate distance to safely stand/sit from a person that is showing signs/symptoms of the flu.

Fact Families, students, and school staff can keep from getting sick with H1N1, as with any contagious disease, by:

  • Practicing good hand washing- cold water with soap is fine as long as good technique is practiced. Anti-bacterial hand sanitizers are also effective.
  • Don't share items like drinks and food.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow or shoulder, NOT into your hand.
  • STAY HOME- staying home keeps the virus from spreading to others. A doctor's note is not needed for readmission to school.

Fact Flu viruses may be spread when a person touches droplets left by coughs and sneezes on hard surfaces (desks, door knobs) or objects (keyboards, pens) and then touches his/her mouth or nose. Disinfecting these surfaces beyond routine cleaning has not proven to be effective. It's more important for staff and students to practice good personal hygiene, especially before eating or touching the mouth, nose or eyes.

Fact The practice of closing schools and conducting stringent disinfection is unnecessary and ineffective to prevent flu infection.

Fact Signs of a fever: temperature taken by oral thermometer reads 100 degrees F or higher. Without a thermometer the person may feel warm, appear flushed or is sweating and shivering. Fever may be the first indication of flu or flu-like illness, even before the onset of coughing, body aches and other symptoms.

Fact Just as with seasonal flu, it's more important to stay home than to seek medical care unless there are underlying medical conditions (such as asthma, heart disease, etc.) or symptoms become severe. A call to your doctor is appropriate if you have concerns.

Fact The seasonal flu vaccine, while it does not protect against H1N1 flu, has proven highly effective in slowing the spread of "regular" flu and lessening the symptoms in those who do contact flu. Doctor's offices, clinics and public immunization programs have this vaccine available, and it is advisable to take this simple precaution as soon as possible as flu season approaches. A vaccine for H1N1 flu is expected to be available in late fall, although at the beginning it may be available only for the most susceptible populations