While children may be excited to see old friends when school starts back, many parents may worry that a new – and invisible — class visitor will begin making its way through Georgia’s schools. In most cases, H1N1 – or “swine flu” – is a mild to moderate virus, with many symptoms similar to seasonal flu. However, officials worry that it could quickly mutate into something far more dangerous, because it is also highly contagious.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has stopped trying to keep count of the increasing numbers of people infected with swine flu, calling it an unstoppable pandemic. The media report of fatalities worldwide from the virus, and some camps in the U.S closed or sent home young campers who fell ill with the flu this summer. While vaccines are being readied for the masses as quickly as possible, it may be October before the flu shots are available.
One thing is certain: the swine flu virus has continued to spread over the summer (when seasonal flu typically dies out), and Georgia’s children will return to school long before those flu shots arrive. When the shots are available, the federal government has suggested we may even see mass vaccination programs in schools, similar to the polio vaccinations in the 1950s.
So what’s a parent to do until then? A healthy dose of preventative health care seems to be the key. In other words, try like mad not to get swine flu in the first place. Tell children to stay away from people who appear sick; wash their hands with soap and water; use hand sanitizer; keep their hands away from their eyes, nose and mouth; and cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
Are you concerned about swine flu sweeping through your child’s school when they return? What will you tell your children about swine flu prevention? How do you stress to your young ones the importance of taking precautions without scaring them? Are your children already aware of H1N1 — are they afraid of getting it? How do you feel about a possible mass vaccination program in your child’s school?