Schools prepare for fall, urge H1N1 prevention

August 18, 2009 12:10:15 PM PDT
Bay Area schools along with schools across the country are trying to figure out how to deal with the threat of swine flu this fall. They just got word the government's vaccine order will be delivered late.

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Barely one-third of the 120 million expected doses will actually be ready by mid-October, so there is a massive delay there. But many at the Santa Clara County Health Department and local schools say they are not worried, they expected it could take a little while.

Last spring, Branham High School in San Hose was shut for two weeks after a student got sick and was suspected to have the H1N1 flu virus. Tuesday morning, the incoming freshman class and their parents had orientation on campus, but district officials from the Campbell Union High School District say they are not planning on talking about flu safety protocol unless asked about it.

Instead, once classes begin, this district, and all others in Santa Clara County, will send out a letter informing parents about H1N1, preventative hygiene and symptoms to watch out for.

Freshman students, parents and teachers ABC7 spoke with say they are already very aware of H1N1 and ways to try to stay healthy.

"Just wash your hands and stay away from people who look like they're sick," said freshman Travis Mabry.

"If you do come in contact with somebody, just to wash your hands all the time, constantly," said teacher Marita Beard. "I'm a science teacher, so I know how to keep myself clean."

"They'll be vaccinated, if and when they get a vaccine coming out," said parent Jesse Grant.

The problem of course is federal health officials are anticipating this delay of millions of doses of swine flu vaccine. The Santa Clara County Public Health Department is not sure how many doses it will be receiving and when, but says it has a new approach for schools, if an outbreak happens.

"I think because the virus is so widespread, we are and the feds as well, are backing away from school closures. It may become necessary to close schools, but we really would like to manage the epidemic without closing schools as much as possible, said health officer Dr. Julie Higashi. "The key messages are to stay at home if you're sick, good hygiene, get vaccinated for seasonal flu, and when the H1N1 vaccine comes out get that vaccination."

Districts will only close schools under direction of Santa Clara County's Public Health Department.

They are pushing for prevention first. When that vaccine comes out, there will be a priority list pregnant women, children, and the elderly.

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