Schools ready themselves for possible H1N1 flu outbreak and symptoms
Area schools have begun to focus on prevention and preparedness for the H1N1 flu.
Park Rapids Area School District staff has had meetings to discuss the basic ways to prevent spreading the flu such as hand washing, Superintendent Glenn Chiodo said.
A mailing was sent out to parents before school started with information about the symptoms of the flu and when to keep students home instead of sending them to school.
"We continue to hear the best scenario is soap and water, wash your hands," Chiodo said. "We're going to make sure we stay on top of that."
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, symptoms of H1N1 influenza are similar to the seasonal flu and include a fever above 100 degrees, cough, sore throat, stuffy nose and in some cases diarrhea and vomiting.
Flu activity in Minnesota has been classified as "widespread," based on U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria, according to MDH. No reports of significant influenza-like illness have been reported in Park Rapids.
"We're encouraging staff as well as students to recognize when they're sick they have to go home," Chiodo said.
While Park Rapids is taking precautions, Chiodo doesn't want people to panic.
"It's a school and we commonly have the flu," he said. "This year we need to be a little more cautious with it."
Staff will continue to remind students to wash their hands and do the basics, such as cover the mouth and nose when coughing.
"We're going to take this a day at a time and try to be as proactive as we can but not overreact," Chiodo said. "We know what we're going to have to do, if in fact it hits us, and if in fact it becomes a real problem."
"We're using the common sense approach," Nevis school nurse Diane Saak said of the "if they're sick, keep them home" policy.
The school has been working with public health officials to develop information for parents.
The rule of thumb is to assess children's health on a daily basis. Symptoms to look for: fever, sore throat and cough.
Hand sanitizers have been added in classrooms, with children reminded of the pesky bug that's targeting them.
Vaccines, Saak said, are recommended for people age 6 months to 24 years and pregnant women. Vaccination is also recommended for people over 25 who are "medically frail."
Healthy adults have, in most instances, developed immunity.
Working parents are being advised to develop plans for childcare in the event of illness.
Readily available hand sanitizers are the new trend in the halls of Menahga School this year.
Superintendent Mary Klamm said the staff met with students earlier this year to discuss flu precautions.
Students are encouraged to wash their hands often and use sanitizers when soap and water aren't available.
Teachers are also responsible for wiping down computers in between classes to prevent germs from spreading, Klamm said.
In the past, students would punch in their identification numbers as they got their meals. Now a staff member is responsible for that, which creates a little bit of delay, but it will speed up soon.
Klamm said a scanning system is on its way to being installed at the lunchroom to avoid the punching method.
No flu cases have been reported at Menahga School. But the way the virus affects school age children is concerning to Klamm.
"It's one of those storms," she said. "I'm sure we'll learn some very valuable lessons from it."