When disease spreads rapidly and over a large area, it can become a disaster – a pandemic . Later we’ll add more info about diseases in general … but for now, let’s learn about the swine flu, a current risk.
How to deal with a disease, possible pandemic? Below is the suggestion for H1N1 (so-called “swine flu”), and it is helpful in other situations, also.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 4 main ways you and your family may keep from getting sick with the flu at school and at home:
- Practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow or shoulder; not into your hands.
- Stay home if you or your child is sick for at least 24 hours after there is no longer a fever or signs of a fever (without the use of fever-reducing medicine). Keeping sick students at home means that they keep their viruses to themselves rather than sharing them with others.
- Get your family vaccinated for seasonal flu and 2009 H1N1 flu when vaccines are available.If flu conditions become MORE severe, parents should consider the following steps:
- Extend the time sick children stay home for at least 7 days, even if they feel better sooner. People who are still sick after 7 days should continue to stay home until at least 24 hours after symptoms have completely gone away. CDC has very strong recommendations regarding length of time to stay away from others.
- If a household member is sick, keep any school-aged brothers or sisters home for 5 days from the time the household member became sick. Parents should monitor their health and the health of other school-aged children for fever and other symptoms of the flu.
Follow these steps to prepare for the flu during the 2009-2010 school year:
- Plan for child care at home if your child gets sick or their school is dismissed.
- Plan to monitor the health of the sick child and any other children in the household by checking for fever and other symptoms of flu. Identify if you have children who are at higher risk of serious disease from the flu and talk to your healthcare provider about a plan to protect them during the flu season.
- Children at high risk of serious disease from the flu include: children under 5 years of age and those children with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma and diabetes.
- Identify a separate room in the house for the care of sick family members.
- Update emergency contact lists.
- Collect games, books, DVDs and other items to keep your family entertained if schools are dismissed or your child is sick and must stay home.
- Talk to your school administrators about their pandemic or emergency plan.Here are sources you can consult for official information, news, what the governments are doing, and how to protect yourself and family:
- Oregon swine flu site (local cases, antiviral info, precautions) and Oregon H1N1 flu site (state wide information)
- CDC swine flue site and H1N1 Questions and Answers from CDC (federal disease center – what to do, parents, children, podcasts, antiviral drugs, other media)
Please take the current epidemic seriously. Even if it’s not deadly today, taking personal precautions, adjusting your habits to create “social distance,” and avoiding unnecessary risks will help reduce the spread of this strain of the swine flu. It will also help us practice safety for a possibly deadly strain this Fall.
Last – but not least – here is a colorful diagram on How flu travels that helps explain how virus is transmitted – and how you can prevent it from spreading to you, family, friends and co-workers.