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District hopes to ward off H1N1 flu

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District hopes to ward off H1N1 flu
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

The Hudson School District, along with schools across the country, is preparing a plan that officials hope will minimize the occurrence of the H1N1 flu and other flu viruses among students, staff and their families.

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It was among the first priorities for Cory McIntyre, the new district director of Student Services, with help from district nurse Sharon Kaltenberg and other staff.

School Board members got a look at the plan at their meeting last week, and a letter is being sent to every family with children in the school district about prevention, response and recovery efforts.

McIntyre said that more is known now about the virus, its duration and treatment than when it first appeared last spring, causing some schools to shut their doors.

"It would take a serious number of students ill with the virus to warrant a school closure. Experience has taught us that it is more important to identify early those with symptoms and to have them remain home until at least 24 hours after those symptoms cease. We do have a contingency plan, however, should the numbers of students and staff affected get beyond a certain point."

The Hudson School District's Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Working Plan is based on recommendations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Wisconsin Department of Health. The phases of the plan include prevention, preparedness, response and recovery efforts in the event of an outbreak.

Regarding prevention, the district has provided guidelines that should help keep students and staff from getting the virus and prevent it from spreading. The guidelines are being shared with teachers and staff as well as with parents and guardians.

Teachers are being asked to teach students to cover their mouths and nose with a tissue when they cough or sneeze -- or their elbow when a tissue isn't available. They will also be reminding students about good hand hygiene and will take steps to keep surfaces and items like keyboards, desks and doorknobs clean.

They are also being asked to closely monitor their students for signs of the virus and to send them to the health office for evaluation. Students and staff are asked to stay home until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever. Teachers and staff as well are also being asked to stay home if they become ill.

Teachers are also planning options for how school work can be continued if a student is out of school due to the flu. The plan says teachers should be prepared for sick students or staff to be home for at least seven days if they contract the virus.

Finding ways to "increase social distances" are also part of the plan and refers to the space between people in the classroom. The plan asked teachers to consider rearranging desks so there is more space between students, considering cancelling classes that bring students together from other rooms during an outbreak or to postpone class trips.

McIntyre said the district has stuck to its normal regime for cleaning buildings in preparation for school and will follow its regular routine once the students return. If cases should start to emerge at a building, additional cleaning measures could be initiated.

McIntyre said the district will use several avenues including their Web site and school newsletters to keep parents and the public informed with accurate information about any outbreaks.

Information for parents about ways to prevent the flu and resources about the pandemic appear with this story. McIntyre can be contacted at his office at (715) 377-3703.

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Meg Heaton
Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
(715) 808-8604
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