Looking to avoid an outbreak of the flu among local schoolchildren, the Stillwater Central School District is working with public health officials and has sent parents a letter urging them to play a leading role in keeping their kids healthy.
The letter from district Superintendent Dr. Stanley Maziejka focuses on the steps that can be taken to minimize exposure to the H1N1 influenza — commonly known as the swine flu — and other illnesses.
“The most important thing we can do is to heighten parents’ awareness and share the facts public health experts know about the flu,” explained Maziejka in a recent interview.
Topping the list of five recommendations for parents is making sure that children “wash their hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based rub” to kill germs and limit the transmission of viruses.
“You can set a good example by doing this yourself,” Maziejka said in his letter.
Parents are also urged to discourage children from sharing “personal items” like unwashed utensils and drink boxes with other children. The early detection of flu-like symptoms is also an important way to minimize the spread of illness, the superintendent said.
In a change in policy spurred by concern about the possible spread of the flu this fall, children being sent home from school in the Stillwater district because of illness “will wear protective masks to reduce the risk of spreading the illness” while they are waiting for parents to pick them up. This change is in compliance with the recommendations of the federal Center for Disease Control (CDC), Maziejka said.
Public health officials have indicated that symptoms of the flu include a fever with a temperature in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, a cough, a sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache and feeling tired.
To avoid spread of a virus, both the CDC and the state Health Department recommend keeping a child home from school for at least 24 hours after there are no more signs of a fever.
The flu most often affects persons between the ages and 5 and 24.
Concern over the spread of the H1N1 influenza virus has been a major focus of public health officials since a global outbreak took place in the spring.
Starting in Mexico, the rapid spread of the deadly virus was unusual because flu outbreaks have historically been the most serious in the cooler fall weather.
The largest number of cases in the spring outbreak affected those between the ages of 5 and 24 meaning school age children may be particularly susceptible to the disease.