School districts beefing up swine flu prevention plans

Stocking up on hand sanitzers, cleaning ventilation systems

As the new school year and an uncertain flu season approach, school districts across the Bay Area are teaming up with county health departments to draft swine flu prevention and control plans.

"When the usual flu season begins this fall, it will probably include not only the usual seasonal flu streams but H1N1 as well," said Dr. Fred Schwartz, a Marin County public health officer. "We anticipate that it could be a busy flu season."

Marin is just one of many counties working to control swine flu, which has a higher attack rate than seasonal flu and tends to affect younger patients, health officials said.

Local school districts are stocking up on hand sanitizer, checking their ventilation systems and doing deep cleaning over the summer, according to school officials in the area. They are also producing and distributing packets of information that stress the shared responsibility of controlling the disease.

"It's up to employers, parents, students and schools to all mitigate the spread of the flu," said Jo Ann Allen, manager of student support services at the Santa Cruz County Office of Education.

She said parents should keep children who show flu-like symptoms home from school and ensure their children are washing their hands frequently. Employers should give employees the day off to stay home with sick children, and schools should send sick students home.

Mount Diablo Superintendent Richard Nicoll said Contra Costa County schools are also working closely with the county health department.

Health and school officials also said the departments might partner to help vaccinate students against the flu.

Schwarz, of Marin County, said the health department wants as many children as possible vaccinated for seasonal flu when it becomes available in early September, and may enlist the schools' help to do so. He added that a vaccine for novel H1N1 might be available in October as well.

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