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Staying Healthy This Flu Season

School Districts Take Precaution

The swine flu or H1N1 virus took hold during the last school year and remains a serious concern as flu season approaches.

While it’s natural during the fall and winter months for some children and staff members to become “under the weather,” that doesn’t necessarily mean they contracted the H1N1 virus; “Type A” flu, the common cold or other maladies may be to blame.

In an effort to keep students and staff healthy, schools throughout the Hicksville community are taking precaution. Various health agencies suggest that thorough hand washing, staying home when sick and practicing respiratory hygiene when coughing or sneezing, among other things, can significantly reduce the spread of germs.

According to Superintendent Maureen Bright, the Hicksville School District plans to continue following suggestions introduced last spring by the Nassau County Department of Health, the State Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

“Our staff continues to encourage students at all levels to practice good personal hygiene habits and requests that parents reinforce these teachings at home. Students are encouraged to regularly wash their hands during the school day,” said Bright.

In locations where soap and hot water are not readily available, the Hicksville School District has placed alcohol-based hand sanitizer in the dispensers; these dispensers are located in areas such as the cafeterias and gymnasiums while wipes are provided in the computer labs and students are expected to wipe clean their keyboard and headset before leaving. Bright said that district custodians clean all classrooms and public areas daily, paying special attention to cleaning frequent contact surfaces such at table and desk tops, light switches, door knobs, etc.

Washing hands often, covering your mouth and using tissues, along with staying home when sick, are among the lines of defense, said Bright, adding that school nurses closely monitor student health with the assistance of the school staff and contact parents to pick up children who are sick and may exhibit flu-like symptoms. “The district actively participates in reporting absenteeism to the county and state and will continue to work closely with the Nassau commissioner of health and her staff as we did in the fall regarding absentee rates and student illnesses,” she said.

At Our Lady of Mercy, school officials are following CDC guidelines found online at http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/guidance/exclusion.htm.

Principal Sister Mary Joanne Deegan said students are encouraged to: wash hands frequently during the day with soap and water; keep tissues handy or sneeze into their sleeve; and, of course, stay home until they are symptom free and without medicines for 24 hours.  “Prevention is really key,” said Sister Deegan.

Over at Trinity Lutheran, school nurse Angela Schoenstein, RN, said the goal is to help keep the building as healthy as possible by following the three C’s: Cleaning hands, covering coughs and caring for sick children at home. Additionally, said Schoenstein, the school “monitors attendance and looks for clusters of absences … We ask parents, teachers and staff to stay informed and vigilant in their efforts to keep our children healthy.”

Parents and guardians seeking information on the regular flu as well as H1N1 virus and the precautions that can be taken can visit www.flu.gov, www.cdc.gov, www.health.state.ny.us and www.nassaucountyny.gov/agencies/health.