Preparing to battle H1N1

By ANNE KAZMIERCZAK
Register Reporter

USD 257 is being proactive when it comes to H1N1, said the district’s school nurse, Jackie Chase.
“We’re going with the state guidelines,” she said about the school’s protocol for ill children.
“Any student who has a fever has to stay home for 24 hours — fever-free without medication — before returning to school,” she said.
That means no acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control symptoms the day before returning, Chase explained. That is a change from previous policy, in which a child could return to school if their fever was reduced, not necessarily gone.
Chase said the change is due to the way H1N1 acts, and how long someone might be contagious after symptoms disappear.
“The latest thing I’ve seen has said you may be contagious for up to a week on either end of being sick,” Chase said.
So, because the germ can be spread by contact, “We’re trying to teach them to wash their hands more,” she said of students.
Actually getting students to wash is easier at the elementary level, Chase said.
“These older kids are in a race to the front of the lunch line — they’re not going to stop and wash their hands before they eat,” she observed. To deal with that, “We have hand sanitizer at the beginning of the lunch line,” she said. “We’ve actually done that for several years now,” Chase said of the practice.
In addition, custodial staff are wiping down hand rails and door knobs during the day. In computer-equipped classrooms, sanitary wipes are used on keyboards, and hand sanitizer is used by students before they begin to type.

“INFLUENZA is a respiratory disease,” Chase said.
Symptoms include a fever of more than 100 degrees along with cough, body aches, sore throat and respiratory congestion. “Once in a while you’ll see diarrhea or vomiting,” Chase said, “but that’s not the major thing. There are stomach viruses, but that’s not the flu.”
Chase would like to see all students receive the H1N1 vaccine.
“We’re really going to be pushing kids to get the flu shot this year,” she said.
Chase plans to set up an immunization clinic once the vaccine is available.
“School-aged children are included in that first wave of priority,” of people recommended to receive the new vaccine, she said.
Whether shots are offered to students during the school day or in evenings will be up to the health department, she said.
Staff received regular flu shots Thursday.
“We had about 100 staff at the middle and high school yesterday get the flu shot on-site,” Chase said. “The elementary staff went to the health department to get theirs.”
Even so, she noted, “it’s about eight to 10 days after you get the shot that you get the immunity.”

FOR NOW, no cases of H1N1 have been recorded in Allen County.
“We’re helping provide surveillance for the health department,” Chase said. “We’re letting them know if we have anything that looks like flu.”
If a student has a questionable illness, Chase does a follow-up with them to be sure.
Chase said a variety of illnesses have caused some students to miss school already this year.
“We always have kids out with one thing or another,” she said.
Thus far, absentee numbers are no higher than normal.