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San Joaquin County public schools help mitigate the spread of Novel H1N1 virus
San Joaquin County Public Health Officer, Dr. Karen Furst and Mick Founts, Deputy Superintendent of San Joaquin County Office of Education. - photo by Photo Contributed
San Joaquin County schools and public health met Monday to discuss how parents, schools, and our community can help prepare for this flu season.

 San Joaquin County Public Health Officer, Dr. Karen Furst, along with San Joaquin County public school nurses, health coordinators, and Superintendents from various districts were present to discuss what they are doing to alleviate the risk and spread of Novel H1N1 within their communities.

“School districts are working closely with SJC Public Health in making decisions,” said Mick Founts, Deputy Superintendent of San Joaquin County Office of Education. “Schools are treating novel H1N1 influenza the same as seasonal flu and will follow the recommendations set by our local public health department and the CDC. School districts are ensuring necessary hand washing supplies are available at school and that frequently touched surfaces are cleaned routinely.”

Schools shared that specialized testing procedures are no longer being conducted for novel H1N1 with the exception of those individuals admitted to the hospital.

Superintendent Steve Lowder of Lincoln Unified stated that schools are asking parents for help in encouraging their children to wash their hands, practice good respiratory hygiene, and not share personal items such as drinks, food, and utensils used by others.

Schools are requesting that parents become familiar with the symptoms of flu, which include a fever (100 degrees Fahrenheit, 37.8 degrees Celsius or higher), cough, sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, and feeling very tired. Some people may also vomit or have diarrhea.

“Schools have a parent/caregiver-screening tool that will help parents/caregivers decide whether their child exhibiting flu like symptoms should stay home,” said Sheri Coburn, director of Comprehensive Health for San Joaquin County Office of Education.

In addition, Coburn shared that schools are asking parents for their help in keeping ill students at home for at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever and have stopped taking medication for flu symptoms. “This may require students to stay home for at least three to five days. Keeping children with a fever at home will reduce the number of people who may get infected,” said Coburn.

Schools are also asking parents to not send children to school if they are sick. Schools will be observing for signs and symptoms of influenza.  Students identified as exhibiting flu like illness symptoms will be sent home.  

“We’re asking that schools isolate students who have influenza like symptoms, as well as have them wear a mask until the parents/guardians/caregivers can pick him or her up from school,” said Furst.

At this point, schools are asking that parents consider getting their child vaccinated for seasonal flu and novel H1N1, when it becomes available. Some districts, such as Lodi, Tracy, Manteca, and Linden Unified, will be providing some of its students with an opportunity to get immunized at school.

“We will be partnering with Sutter Tracy Community Hospital to provide the vaccine to our students sometime in the near future,” said Jim Franco, Superintendent of Tracy Unified.

Three visits are necessary because the H1N1 vaccine consists of two shots about three to four weeks apart, according to Furst, and should first become available by mid-October. Regular seasonal flu vaccines, including shots and flu mist (a nasal spray), will be available this month.

San Joaquin County Office of Education, as well as all school districts have flu prevention and recognition resources on its website, as well as links to local, state, and national information.
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