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County eases swine flu fear for schools

As students head back to school, officials encourage flu shots

Posted: August 21, 2009 8:52 p.m.
Updated: August 22, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Months after local students and a school staffer contracted the H1N1 “swine flu” virus, Los Angeles County Public Health officials on Friday sought to calm fears of an outbreak during the new school year.

“There is so much fear surrounding the flu that we tend to forget that this is a disease that everyone has had,” Dr. Sadina Reynaldo, assistant program director for the Pandemic Influenza Unit, told officials for all five local school districts.

Reynaldo reminded the crowd at Saugus Union School District that a mild flu season in Los Angeles County means that 10 percent, or about one million people, would get the flu.

Symptoms associated with the seasonal flu typically include fever, headache and body aches, while the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, can bring gastrointestinal symptoms and is becoming more prevalent in children, she said.

As for treatment, Reynaldo advised school officials that unless in a medical setting and proper use, wearing surgical masks do not stop the transmission of the flu nor will shutting down a school.

The same goes for disinfecting school desks, doorknobs and drawers.

“You cannot wash every surface and keep it clean all the time,” she said.

Rather, Reynaldo reinforced the message of maintaining proper personal hygiene by washing hands frequently, covering the mouth when sneezing and staying home when sick.

While everyone is encouraged to get a flu shot, the H1N1 vaccine is a priority for people ages six months through 24 years old, pregnant women, people who live or care for children younger than six months old and people ages 25 through 64 with health complications, she said.

A student and a staff member at Sierra Vista Junior High School, along with a Skyblue Mesa Elementary School student, tested positive for the H1N1 virus during the 2008-09 school year. This prompted district officials to notify school communities.



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