H1N1 School Guidelines

August 7, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Schools across the Valley and the nation will soon be back open from the summer break. That has health officials worried that the H1N1 flu could spread rapidly as flu season approaches. The government has some new guidelines on how schools should deal with the flu. The message Friday from top health and education officials to schools across the country: keep students infected with swine flu home, but schools should try not to close their doors.

"We can't stop the tide of flu from coming in. But we can reduce the number of people who become severely ill from it," said the Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Thomas Frieden.

Last spring, more than 700 schools in half the country temporarily closed their doors. Under new federal guidelines released Friday, schools should have home learning plans prepared for sick students that include phone calls, homework packets and internet lessons.

"We hope no schools have to close. But if they do, we need to make sure that children keep learning," said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

The latest figures reveal over 162,000 people worldwide have been infected with the H1N1 virus. And experts predict the pandemic will strike one third of the world's population, 2 billion people, will eventually become infected.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said "The best way to prevent the spread of flu is vaccination. A seasonal flu vaccine is ready to go, and we should have one for the 2009 H1N1 flu by mid- October".

It appears that the first three swine flu vaccine volunteers will get their shots Friday afternoon in Seattle. But many Americans are wondering if getting a new vaccine is worth the risk. "My biggest worry is just the time frame//has it been tested enough," said parent Matanda Wachira.

Family doctors are trying to calm those fears. "This is produced in the same way, using the same methods and the same factories," said Dr. Christopher Harrison with Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics.

President Obama travels to Mexico on Sunday for talks next week with the Mexican president and Canadian prime minister. They will discuss how best to react to the spread of swine flu this fall.

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