Trying to control swine flu in schools

June 11, 2009 2:58:25 PM PDT
Health officials already know the virus is here in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties. Now they're working to limit its spread, especially at schools.

As a handful of Philadelphia schools continue to report dozens to hundreds of kids out due to flu-like symptoms, school and health officials today discussed how they're handling the illnesses, especially the big question - why schools aren't closed.

Dr. Donald Schwarz, Philadelphia's commissioner of public health says, "We believe there is enough influenza in the community that even if schools are closed kids will still develop the infection for as long as it continues to spread."

So for healthy kids, they are trying to maximize education. However, there is a control plan.

Teachers are asked to screen kids for symptoms, especially at schools such as Hunter and Rowen Elementaries, where there have been a lot of kids absent.

Latanya White was asked to pick her niece up from school today.

White told us, "She's got an upset stomach and a high fever right now so we're going to the hospital."

Kids with flu symptoms are asked to stay out of school for at least 7 days, to ensure other kids won't be exposed.

Tomas Hanna, the Philadelphia school district's CEO told Action News, "It will be an excused absence as long as they're sharing with us what the situation is."

As for cleaning schools, officials say that's done every night. Doctors say doing anymore isn't necessary.

Dr. Schwarz says, "This virus is not spread by environmental surfaces. This virus is spread by droplets- what comes out of your mouth or nose."

So along with keeping sick kids home... Parents and kids are also reminded to practice good hygiene.

Aveon Goodjoines described the measures she's taking with her son, "Washing his hands, having solution, and remind handwashing is important.

There are 8 more days left for schools in Philadelphia. Right now there are no plans to cancel any graduations. But for schools with a lot of illnesses reported, other functions such as field trips and assemblies might be cancelled.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the biggest share of cases are still occurring in young people. And 41% of those hospitalized are 5 to 24 years of age.

In our area, the latest statistics bear that out. The Delaware Department of Health says there are no confirmed cases in the 60+ age range.

And in Pennsylvania, there are only a handful of cases in those 60 years of age and older, and none at all in those 70 years and older.

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