Schools should remain calm but vigilant during Swine Flu outbreak

What your mother always told you is true. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially when it comes to the flu. Media reports tell us that the number of confirmed cases and the number of states in which those confirmed cases are located continues to rise. However, there have been no confirmed cases in Mississippi at this time.
We have advised our schools to remain calm but vigilant during the Swine Flu outbreak. Keeping schools clean and providing a healthy learning environment is always at the top of a principal’s to-do list, but I, along with State Health Officer Dr. Ed Thompson, have asked principals to take a few extra precautions during this time to prevent the spread of germs and lower the risk of infection among students as much as possible.
We have asked them to:
* Provide links to resources and information on their Web sites
* Remind staff to stay home if they are ill
* Develop a joint information meeting for staff with a health/safety officer, health specialist and/or local health department’s communicable disease division
* Review protocol with custodial and maintenance staff to ensure preventive cleaning measures
* Ensure that every classroom is well-stocked with tissue, hand sanitizer gel and anti-bacterial wipes
We have also asked our schools to help remind parents to keep children home if they are ill. The symptoms of swine flu in people are expected to be similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal influenza and include fever (over 100amp° F), lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing.
Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Someone who has been infected with swine flu should stay home for 7 days after the start of illness and fever is gone and return to school only after fever and other signs/symptoms of the illness have been absent for no less than seven days.
We have also asked our schools to help remind students to follow these simple steps to stay healthy:
* Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
* Wash your hands with soap and water, especially after cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
* Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
* Try to avoid close contact with those who are ill.
* Influenza is thought to spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
Information regarding the virus is changing rapidly, almost minute-by-minute. We have established a page on our Web site, www.mde.k12.ms.us, dedicated to providing information about the Swine Flu to school staff, parents, students and others. We have also provided links to other Web sites, such as the Centers for Disease Control, to provide an easy point to access a wealth of information. After all, information is the key to prevention and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Alisha Wilson