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Schools Guard Against Flu
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As winter and the seasonal flu season approaches, Riverbank has joined other school districts in taking precautions against the potential threat of the flu virus especially the new and virulent "swine flu" strain.

Superintendent of Schools Ken Geisick sent a letter to all parents on the subject in late August.

"Although the severity of the H1N1 virus is currently similar to seasonal flu, it is affecting younger people and there is no vaccine for it yet," Geisick noted at the start.

The federal government is developing a vaccine but does not expect it to be ready until October.

The letter adds all school districts are working closely with the Stanislaus County Office of Education and County Health Services in monitoring and responding to the local situation, concentrating on basic hygiene for prevention and reporting attendance data directly to the county health agency.

"The school nurses are working with the younger kids teaching them to cough into their sleeve or elbow. We're instructing maintenance staff to make sure there's adequate soap in the bathrooms for hand washing," he said.

The district has only one registered nurse but has placed a licensed vocational nurse and health clerk at every site.

School attendance throughout the district shows no sign of dropping off.

"We have very strong attendance. Last week it was 96.5 percent. We're glad about that. The kids are in school and learning," Geisick said, while noting some students just stay home when they get sick and there is no way of knowing the nature of their illness.

Stanislaus County health authorities reported that as of last week 46 people had been hospitalized in the county for H1NI influenza and five had died; and unlike the common flu that most often strikes toddlers and the elderly, the swine flu variety is affecting the 20 to 45-age range.

The Riverbank school district is following federal guidelines that are supported by state and local health officials.

Geisick's letter recommends that students and staff:

Stay home when sick. Those with a flu-like illness should stay home for at least 24 hours after they no longer have the fever and even if using antiviral drugs.

Those who appear to have flu should be separated from others (and preferably wear a surgical mask) until they can be sent home.

They should wash their hands frequently with soap and water and cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing.

School staff will continue using routine cleaning materials on areas frequently touched.

People at high risk who become ill with flu like symptoms should see a doctor as soon as possible. Early treatment can prevent hospitalization or death. People at high risks include those who are pregnant, have asthma or diabetes, have compromised immune systems or neuromuscular diseases.

Symptoms of H1N1 are similar to those of regular flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue and also in some cases diarrhea and vomiting.