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Swine flu fears mount

Local school districts prepare for H1N1 virus
By: Brad Smith, Telegraph Correspondent
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The first case of swine flu, or H1N1, hit area schools as soon as the doors opened. Vista del Lago was the first to report a student had contracted the illness. While the student never came into contact with fellow classmates, the incident was a reminder of last spring’s swine flu scare that gripped the nation. With flu season on its way, area schools are taking action. Stephen Nichols, Folsom Cordova Unified School District’s public information officer, said “(the district) has been tracking the virus’ progress.” He said the district is in close contact with Dr. Glennah Trochet, Sacramento County’s public health officer. “We’re also talking to the California Department of Education, the California Department of Public Health, the California Health Alert Network and the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. The plan is,” he said, “should the district receive information about the swine flu virus, we plan on informing the parents as quickly as possible.” Information and keeping concerned parents informed is one of the best ways to deal with the H1N1 flu virus, according to Nichols. “Parents need to know what to look for,” he said, “to determine if their children have the virus.” Should a child exhibit symptoms, the parent needs to contact a doctor. “Of course, it’s best the student stays home until he or she gets better,” Nichols said. Dr. Vicki Barber, El Dorado County’s superintendent of schools, said that her district is preparing itself as well. Like the Folsom Cordova school district’s plan to maintain constant communication with both state and federal health agencies, Barber said her district is doing the same. “We’re also making sure that our teachers have access to plenty of hand sanitizers. Our custodial staffers,” she said, “are using a lot of bleach in their cleaning. Teachers and their teaching assistants will be doing a lot of cleaning between classes, too.” Nichols said Folsom Cordova district custodians are implementing a similar cleaning regimen. Barber said her staff has been “educating themselves” about the H1N1 virus. “One thing that we need to mindful is that we have to lookout for students who have preexisting medical conditions, such as asthma or immunity deficiencies.” Those students, Barber said, are at risk. “If we had a number of swine flu cases breaking out, we’d have to make sure (those students) are safe,” she said. Barber said the district has been informing both students and teachers about the importance of hand hygiene, the symptoms to be aware of and even covering one’s mouth when coughing. She has been spearheading an informational campaign, reaching out to parents and communities. A Web site — edcoe.org/departments/emergency/SwineFluUpdate.htm — has been set up and regularly updated. Barber said workshops would be held, where people can attend and receive more information. “We want the community to know that we’re taking this seriously. Many of our teachers and other employees have children in the school system. They need to be reassured that we’re doing everything in our power to keep our kids safe.”