By Mark Bishop, Deputy Director
From my perspective, the theme around the back-to-school season this year has been H1N1 -- swine flu.
Nurses have been overwhelmed with preparing, teachers have been getting information on prevention strategies, administrators are creating plans address outbreaks, and custodians are being held up as one of the key team members to reduce the spread of the disease.
And it seems like the spread is starting.
While most cases so far are mild, and the health care system is handling the load, officials say the number of people seeking treatment for the flu is unprecedented for this time of year.
So first of all, let's emphasize CDC's commonsense recommendations to protect your health from H1N1 and any infectious disease:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) Keep away from others as much as possible to keep from making others sick.
Second, let's look at our cleaning programs, and make sure that we're not over-compensating with the overuse of disinfectants. A green cleaning program is about reducing risk of chemical exposure and targeted use of disinfectants.
Disinfectant use should be limited to high-touch areas such as door handles, keyboards, light switches, and tables. When selecting a disinfectant, work with vendors to select the least toxic, most affordable option, and always choose EPA registered products.
This story has a good Q & A:
Many schools and classrooms are being stocked with soap, hand sanitizer, paper towels and tissues, and administrators are sending home letters to parents outlining prevention strategies.
Following guidelines issued by federal, state and county health officials, teachers, nurses and others will frequently stress the importance of hand-washing, and will be on the lookout for students exhibiting flulike symptoms.
Some schools are stepping up routine cleaning, especially for doorknobs, computer keyboards and other frequently touched areas.
So take precaution, wash your hands, stay home when sick, and look to the CDC for guidance.