H1N1: The Fight Against Germs

Hand washing
Friday Oct 2, 09

The terms H1N1 or "swine flu" are about as commonly known as the "common cold."

Last spring, the district, along with others across the nation and world, felt some of the effects of what pandemic "pandemonium" might feel like. While schools let out for summer, media speculation continued to keep H1N1 in the spotlight and kept everyone anxious for the start of this school year.

More was discovered about the illness before the end of last school year and even more was determined over the summer. The district is regularly updated with information from Wright County, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and, from the national front, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Flu-like symptoms are when a person has a fever of 100 degrees or greater and any of the following symptoms: cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.  
 
Because the symptoms of seasonal and H1N1 flu are so similar, regular lab testing will not be done to differentiate the two viruses, except if a person is hospitalized. The district is monitoring for symptoms of the flu in general, but not specifically H1N1.
 
Influenza spreads when a person with the flu coughs or sneezes. You can help us prevent the spread of flu at school by taking the following steps:

  1. Keep your children home if they have symptoms of the flu.  Continue to watch your children closely for these symptoms before sending them to school. Students who are experiencing these symptoms at school will be sent home. They will also be asked to wear a mask while waiting to be picked up in an effort to prevent further spread of the illness.
  2. Children should stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing drugs like Tylenol or Motrin and they are feeling well.  
  3. Children still need to stay home until their fever has been gone for 24 hours even if they are on antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu or they have negative flu test results. Flu tests (like strep tests) are not always accurate.  
  4. Develop a plan for caring for your child when they are ill. This may take up to five to seven days. During this time, children should avoid contact with others except for medical care. This includes participation in extra-curricular activities.  
  5. Promote good hand washing as well as frequent hand washing with soap and water or a hand sanitizer. Children will be reminded to wash their hands regularly during the school day.  
  6. Teach your child to cover coughs and sneezes. They should cough or sneeze into their elbow or arm if at all possible. If using a tissue or hand to cover a cough or sneeze, hands should be washed immediately.  
  7. Avoid sharing personal items. That includes drinks, food or eating utensils. 
  8. Vaccinate your child. The MN Department of Health recommends vaccinating all children against regular, seasonal flu. That step is especially important for children at high risk of flu related complications.  A separate vaccination will be needed for H1N1. The vaccine should be available in October. Initially it was thought that two doses of H1N1 would be required, however indications are that this may require only a single dose.  

If H1N1 becomes more severe, some of the recommendations may change. For example, the MDH may require children with flu symptoms to stay home longer-up to seven days, regardless of when their fever goes away. We will keep you informed if any of these steps become necessary.

The district's school nurses, health educational support professionals and buildings and grounds crews are working hard to make sure the spread of germs is kept to a minimum. In preparation for the increased illness rates, the district has taken the following measures to help decrease the spread of illness:

  • Building custodians will schedule additional surface cleaning every Wednesday for "high touch" areas such as doorknobs, handrails and light switches.
  • The district will provide surface cleaning products to classroom teachers and office personnel for extra cleaning.
  • Since computer labs are a "high use" area and because keyboards have the highest risk of spreading germs, hand sanitizer dispensers will be in place at the entrance of each lab.
  • Masks will be given to students and staff with flu symptoms waiting to go home.
  • A supply of gloves will be stocked in each building.

Letters have been sent to staff and parents about the district's efforts to try to control the spread of any infectious germs. More information and resources can be found below about the national, state and district-wide efforts, how parents know when to keep their child home from school and when they can return to school.