Fulton School District Aims To Squash Flu Bug

FULTON, NY – Fulton School District officials and representatives of the Oswego County Health Department met Tuesday to outline what they are doing to prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus in the district – and what the public can do to help.

“As the flu can be easily spread from person to person, our school staff is taking steps to reduce the spread of flu in the Fulton City School District. We want to keep the school open to students and functioning in a normal manner during the school year, especially during the flu season,” Superintendent Bill Lynch said in a letter to district parents. “But, we need your help.”

Common sense is a good way to curb the spread of flu, according to Dr. Dennis Norfleet, Oswego County Public Health Director.

The district initiated a pandemic plan in 2006, in response to the avian virus, “it is now our influenza and infectious disease plan, which we’ve revised several times. This plan encompasses more than just the swine flu,” said Ken Avery, director health services and athletics. “It is constantly updated and reviewed as we get information the department of health and SED (State Education Department).”

“It’s here, H1N1 is here,” Dr. Norfleet confirmed. “Right now, anyone who has influenza like illness is assumed to have the swine flu.”

Symptoms of the disease include: fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some have also reported diarrhea and vomiting.

These signs may appear within two to seven days of exposure to the virus.

Any staff or students with flu like symptoms are encouraged to stay home until they’re better, the superintendent noted.

For the past decade, the district has had a program called Cleaning for Health. It entails sanitizing all common surfaces (such as desk tops and doorknobs) daily and there is a quality assurance facet to check the quality of the work.

This program, district officials say, has played a big role in keeping the number of illnesses down in the schools.

School buses are also being cleaned on a regular basis.

Student athletes are encouraged not to share water bottles and things like that.

“The thing we have been trying to reinforce is get the vaccine when it becomes available (The Oswego County Health Department will accept appointments for H1N1 flu vaccine starting Monday from people who are in priority groups for receiving the vaccine), don’t cough on your neighbor, cough into your sleeve or a tissue. The other thing is frequent hand washing – that is crucial,” Dr. Norfleet said. “The other big thing is staying away from work, from school when you are sick.”

To help prevent the spread of flu, the Oswego County Health Department also advises people to:

Stay away from crowds when you are sick and when there is flu in the community

People should not visit hospitals and nursing homes if they have flu and cold symptoms.

Diane Oldenburg, a pubic health educator, said she has been educating youngsters the proper way of preventing the spread of things like the flu.

“I know I can say the same message at home a million times, but when my kids hear it from somebody else in school they come home and say, ‘Mom, do you know…?'” she said. “Sometimes it helps to hear it from somebody else other than mom or dad or somebody you hear all the time in school.”

“The kids know that flu is around,” she added. “It is a good idea to reinforce prevention whenever you have the opportunity.”

The district plans to add more hand sanitizer dispensers in its buildings.

“They will be located at various locations where hand washing isn’t readily available,” the superintendent noted.

Some spots would be at the main offices and cafeterias.

“For now, we are doing everything we can to keep our schools functioning as usual,” Lynch said.

If the flu becomes more severe, the district would take additional steps to prevent its spread, the superintendent said.

Such measures would include: conducting active fever and flu symptom screening of students and staff as they arrive at school; making changes to increase the space between people such as moving desks farther apart, and postponing class trips; and dismissing students from school for at least seven days if they become sick.

Swine Flu is a respiratory disease of pigs that is caused by type A influenza viruses.

While people do not usually contract the disease, human infections can and do happen, Dr. Norfleet explained.

The virus is primarily spread from person to person by coughing or sneezing. However, for example, if a student coughs or sneezes on his paper and hands it in, the virus could remain on the paper anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days, the doctor cautioned.

For more information, call the Oswego County Health Department at 349-3547 or 1-800-596-3200, ext. 3547, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

For more information about the swine influenza outbreak, call the New York State Health Department hotline at 1-800-808-1987, or visit New York State Department of Health: http://www.health.state.ny.us/diseases/communicable/influenza/seasonal/swine_flu/