COLUMBIA — With the school year starting in less than two weeks and two outbreaks of the swine flu in Boone County, the Columbia Public School District is working with city and county health officials to devise a plan for dealing with the issue once students return Aug. 24.
County health officials have informed school nurses throughout the district to look for H1N1 symptoms including sudden fever, muscle aches, headache and lack of energy, said Geni Alexander, public information officer for the Columbia/Boone County Health Department.
Mary Laffey, assistant superintendent for human resources, said she hoped the district would have informational packets about how to deal with swine flu ready for parents by back-to-school nights, which begin Aug. 17, but they are not yet available.
No specific protocols have been taken to specifically prepare for a swine flu outbreak, Laffey said.
Nick Boren, chief operations officer for the district, said the H1N1 virus is evolving constantly, making it hard to release specific information.
An official vaccine won't be available until mid-October and will require two doses to inoculate H1N1 and a third dose to prevent the seasonal flu, said Eddie Hedrick, emerging infections coordinator for the Missouri Health Department.
Officials from the Centers for Disease Control are predicting a flu outbreak two times higher than normal, and lab tests indicate that about 99 percent of all flu cases in the country right now are swine flu, Hedrick said.
Hedrick said health officials will continue to update schools about how to best deal with H1N1, but for now, the best thing to do is keep sick children out of school.
“If you’re sick, stay home,” he said. “That will slow this down more than anything else we can do.”
What precautions should the Columbia Public School District take to prevent a swine flu outbreak?