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Keeping Your Child Safe from Swine Flu

September 8, 2009
Times Observer
BY MARTHA ROGUS, RESEARCH/FREELANCE WRITER, WARREN

Now that school has resumed, so has the battle for keeping your child safe from germs. This year we will be involved in dealing with swine flu and swine flu prevention at schools on a national level. Hopefully, through education and preventative measures, we will avoid a pandemic.

PREVENTION According to Dr. Thomas Friedman of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number one best way to avoid spreading any type of germ is thorough hand washing. From my own experience, children should wash their hands while singing the words to the Happy Birthday song, twice, either to themselves or out loud, depending on where they are at the time. That should give sufficient time to cover the area of their hands with soap and rinse with water to remove any germs that may be present. Children should also be taught to cover their mouth when they sneeze or cough, preferably with a tissue. If a tissue is not available or handy, they should wash their hands after covering their cough or sneeze. Taking it one step farther and in good measure, even after using a tissue, they should WASH THEIR HANDS. It sounds a bit obsessive, but teachers and parents alike would much rather see the precautions being undertaken to avoid contacting and spreading germs that can cause illness than to lose work time because of illness. And, it is just not any fun for any child to be sick. Personal sized hand sanitizers are another good idea. They come in an assortment of colors and some are pleasantly scented. They fit easily into a child’s pocket or backpack. Many schools are cleaning desks and surfaces with anti-germ agents since swine flu is transmittable from surface areas such as desks and counter tops, according to Arne Duncan, Secretary of the Department of Education. Given the symptoms and severity of swine flu, we should be practicing these preventative measures on a daily basis, and not underestimate swine flu’s ability to have serious consequences in the lives of those around us.

IMMUNIZATION The federal government has allocated funds to state and local governments for the swine flu vaccine to be administered to those between the ages of 6 months to 24 years, and also those with other medical conditions that warrant immunization, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease and Prevention. Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Human Services said college students may also be receiving widespread campus immunizations or preventative measures due to living in close proximity of each other, or dorm-life.

For people outside of those groups, there seems to be some sort of protection. Either they were exposed to a strain of flu such as swine flu, or they had a flu shot with the right ingredients to keep them protected because those populations are not becoming infected by the swine flu. Trials are underway to find out how safe the vaccine is and dosage. From what they’ve already determined, children will need 2 vaccinations. The up side is there will be no cost. The immunizations will be administered at schools or other facilities within each community. There are also two types, which are injectable and oral. The types made avail-

able to each community will depend on cost and availability, and the swine flu vaccine only takes care of swine flu and no other type of flu (Fauci).

SWINE FLU SYMPTOMS Unfortunately, the symptoms of swine flu are like those of other flu types. They are sore throat, cough, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, chills, fatigue, and fever. Many people have also reported vomiting and diarrhea. The difference is severe illness and death, have been associated with swine flu (Centers for Disease Control, 6). If you suspect swine flu, have your child seen by a physician immediately. For more information on symptoms visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/qa.htm.

RETURNING TO SCHOOL If your child contracts swine flu, Arne Duncan is recommending the child stay home until 24 hours after the fever returns to normal. The Department of Education is taking this stance instead of suggesting closing schools if one or more students should become infected with swine flu. It is up to individual school districts to enforce this rule and to determine what is in the best interest of the students.

WHY A PANDEMIC IS A PROBLEM The problems associated with a pandemic are lost work time and a shortage of hospital beds for those seriously ill. The difference between a pandemic and epidemic is an epidemic effects a small, regional population of people, where a pandemic effects a larger population at the same time. Authorities are concerned swine flu may enter the pandemic arena if precautions aren’t taken (Fauci).

With any luck, the swine flu will just pass us by without any consequences. If we practice these suggested precautions and preventative measures, maybe that will be enough to sustain our children’s present day health and well-being though the upcoming school days. For further reading visit the Homeland Security website at www.dhs.gov and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at www.dhs.gov. n

References Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Novel H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu) and You.” 2009. CDC. 13 Aug. 2009 . Duncan, Arne. Department of Education. C-Span 2. 7 Aug. 2009. Fauci, Anthony. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. C-Span 2. 7 Aug. 2009. Friedman, Thomas. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. C-Span 2. 7 Aug. 2009. Sebelius, Kathleen. Department of Health and Human Services. C-Span 2. 7 Aug. 2009.

Martha is a non-traditional student at Edinboro University working toward her degree in Education with a minor in Creative Writing. She worked part-time for the Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad and is a writing consultant for EU’s Writing Center. She has been accepted to two writing conferences as a presenter and had an article published in a 2007 issue of ‘Mother Earth News.’ She has been married for nineteen years and has two daughters, age eighteen and sixteen. She is a member of St. Joseph Catholic Church where she has been teaching kindergarten CCD for over ten years.

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