Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fear of the Flu

I can honestly say that the flu is truly happening more and more.  In one school it became apparent that we have multiple outbreaks.  Students are coming in right and left with fevers and coughs.  It is a little scary but right now 98% of all cases of influenza are H1N1 or the Swine Flu.  So it is here, right now.  Most people will recover with little fanfare.  I am posting the instructions we are giving schools.  It has good information for everyone.

1.    Students out with the flu do NOT need a note from their doctor to return to school.  Even if they say they have H1N1!  RIGHT NOW ALL FLU IS THE H1N1!  It is “THE FLU!”  Let me say this again....Anyone with flu symptoms (fever, sore throat and cough) has presumed H1N1.  Whether adult of child, it is the Swine Flu or H1N1.  Thank goodness the majority of H1N1 cases are mild.  Obviously we have students who are out too much and you may have reasons to request a note from them....that will be between your principal and you as to who needs a note, but for the note is needed to return.

2.    DO NOT send students off to the doctor who are going home with a fever.  If you are uncomfortable have the parent "call" the doctor for advice.  We do not want everyone to go to the doctor or emergency room for routine flu.  The exceptions:  Individuals with chronic disease and those who are having chest pain, difficulty breathing or other severe problems.  The parent can always CALL a medical provider for advice.  If they have no one to call they may have to seek out a doctor's visit, but for most people they can be cared for at home.

3.    Currently we are still reporting "outbreaks" (5 or more in a class in a week) of Influenza Like Illnesses (ILI)(fever or feeling like you have a fever, sore throat and cough).  Let my office know x_______ if you have an "outbreak".  The health department simply is taking a count.  Nothing will be done unless it is a class of students who have chronic disease or neurological problems or a class of "OHI" students and then they will most likely offer "prophylactic" treatment to those who are not ill.  This is to protect those individuals who have compromised health.

4.    If you know there is an outbreak and a student in that class has been on "cancer treatment" or they have a chronic illness tell the nurse (or me) so we can notify the family about the flu in the classroom. 

5.   Remember:
Recommendations continue to be:
*Stay home if you are sick with a fever 100 or above; (this means YOU and students as well)
*Seek medical care for persistent high fever or difficulty breathing. Most people will recover without the need to seek medical attention.
*Stay home at least 24 hours after fever is gone.
*Wash your hands often with soap and water.  Use hand sanitizer when you don't have soap and water.
*Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and then throw it away then wash your       hands.  
*Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
*Avoid close contact with sick people.

6.   If you find that parents are sending their children back to school too early (not waiting until they are free of fever for 24 hours) you may want to brainstorm with your principal.  One school has decided to give the teacher a note when their student has been sent home with a fever and flu like symptoms and asking the teacher to send the child down to the office to check their temperature when the child returns.  This way you will be able to make sure they are not back too early.  This is only a suggestion.  People are most contagious during the time they are febrile.

7.   This flu is very contagious but continue your efforts of good hand hygiene, cough and sneeze etiquette and vigilance of sick staff and students.  Keep calm and don't panic!  If you have parents who are very fearful and spreading rumors or fear you can call me to help or your principal may be able to assist you.

8.    So far this flu has been mild.  Yes some people have died, but people die from the flu every year (usually 35,000 each year).  The difference is that this flu is tending to hit younger people because older people, like me, have already seen a similar flu before (70’s)and most likely will not get it again or, if I do, it will be mild because I have some immunity already.  It scares us that younger people are getting ill instead of the senior citizen groups, but it is manageable and most people will be fine.  Get your vaccinations, if you can.  We will be offering a limited number of doses at the end of this month and will give priority to secretaries, health clerks and nurses and principals because they are tending to the sick.  We will then offer the remainder to all other staff.  Unfortunately we do not have many doses, but there will be plenty of opportunities to get vaccinated elsewhere and we will provide staff with information on these resources.

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