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Local schools ready for any H1N1 flu outbreak

By Staff | May 11, 2009

Blue Earth Area School District has a ‘Crisis Management Plan’ outlining procedures in case an emergency situation occurs.

Included in the 53-page document are steps to follow if there is a medical incident, such as a flu outbreak.

While district officials hope they’ll never have to use the plan, they are addressing any concern there may be over the H1N1 Novel virus infection — swine flu — identified in some Minnesota school-aged children.

On Monday, more than 1,100 flyers were sent out to parents and guardians of students in the district.

“It’s to reassure them we are in contact with state education officials and the Department of Health. I have been working on it,” says Sharon Hoyt, the district’s licensed school nurse.

Although state health officials have not recommended any schools be closed, at least five have voluntarily called off classes so far.

Superintendent Dale Brandsoy says Hoyt is working closely with Connie Leland, community health coordinator for Faribault and Martin counties, and with local medical authorities.

“We’re keeping an eye on it and have a plan in place if something should happen,” says Brandsoy.

The flyer outlines basic infection prevention measures for staff and students to follow. Two websites providing updated information on the flu virus also are listed.

Hoyt says people may have symptoms that are similar to seasonal influenza that include a fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.

Brandsoy says district officials are turning to the Minnesota Department of Health for any guidelines they need to follow.

“They are the ones that will advise the district what to do. They are the experts,” he says.

Anyone who is sick, says Hoyt, should stay home and contact a local clinic to make an appointment.

United South Central interim Superintendent John Widvey says he has met with the school nurse and principals to discuss what to do.

He says officials are responding to any questions the district’s patrons may have on a case by case basis.

“We’re trying to respond in an appropriate manner, yet not do something to create a panic situation,” says Widvey.

“We’ve decided let’s keep our ears to the ground, in terms of working with state Department of Education and Health officials,” he adds.

A news release issued by Leland states United Hospital District and Clinics is working with the South Central Healthcare Systems Preparedness Program and other local health care leaders to coordinate strategic efforts in response to the outbreak of the ‘swine flu.’

Because H1N1 is resembling the more regular, seasonal flu, school officials are being allowed to close at their discretion based on an assessment of their own situation.

Standard recommendations for preventing the spread of the flu virus include:

• Cover your nose and mouth with your sleeve when you cough or sneeze;

• Clean you hands frequently and thoroughly — with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub solution;

• Limit your contact with others who may be ill;

• Clean your hands after shaking hands or having close contact with other people — before eating or preparing food, or touching your eyes, nose or mouth.