HCPS: An ounce of prevention

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By Cindy DiFazio

Staff writer/photographer

It’s all about prevention.

HCPS district school nurse Melissa Jeffries said a letter will be sent to the homes of all students this week outlining the district’s commitment to flu prevention.

Jeffries said HCPS is taking its direction from the Centers for Disease Control and the Kentucky Department of Education.

The CDC recommends that anyone between the ages of six months and 24 years old be vaccinated for the H1N1 flu virus. The CDC said that is because they have seen many cases in children and in healthy young adults.

Because children often come in contact with other children at school and day care, the CDC said they may be at greater risk for contracting the highly contagious illness.

Their Web site said seasonal flu vaccines should be available in doctors’ offices in August, but most likely will not protect against H1N1. The CDC hopes to have a vaccine ready for the public by fall.

Jeffries said HCPS asks that students with a fever above 100 degrees be kept at home until symptom-free. “We want them fever-free without medications for at least 24 hours before they return to school,” she said. “That decreases the risk of exposure for other students.”

In a letter to be sent home with students today, HCPS suggests parents observe a child who awakens with vague complaints for an hour or so before sending him or her to school. “Keeping a sick child at home will help minimize the spread of infections and viruses in the classroom,” it said.

The CDC said symptoms are similar to seasonal flu symptoms, and include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. A significant number of people infected by H1N1 also reported diarrhea and vomiting.

The school district asks that children be kept at home for a day of rest and observation if they exhibit any of the following:

• very stuffy or runny nose and/or a cough

• mild sore throat (no fever, no known exposure to strep)

• headache

• mild stomach ache

Definitely keep a child home who exhibits any of these symptoms:

• fever

• vomiting

• diarrhea

• chills

• general tiredness or feelings of fatigue, discomfort, weakness, muscle aches

• frequent congested (wet) or croupy, dry cough

• lots of nasal congestion with frequent blowing of nose

• sore throat

• trouble breathing

Jeffries said schools will follow the same criteria for sending sick children home. “Our staff is really good at identifying kids who need to go home,” she said.

It is recommended that caregivers follow up with health care providers if students have any of the above symptoms.

Antiviral medications are available for people who become severely ill with influenza including the H1N1 flu virus. These medicines must be prescribed by a health care professional. The CDC said these drugs work best when administered within two days of becoming ill.

Jeffries said HCPS did not have any cases of students or staff contracting the H1N1 virus earlier this year. “We’ve had no major flu outbreaks in the last several years,” she said.

Superintendent Tim Abrams said HCPS is providing this information prior to flu season in an effort to follow Department of Education recommendations and get information to families in a timely manner.

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