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On guard against flu

Schools take extra precautions

POSTED: September 2, 2009 4:00 a.m.
Elizabeth Hamilton Dawson Community News/

Robinson Elementary School custodian Kathy Higgins cleans the water fountains.

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Dawson County school and safety officials are urging calm in the wake of the first confirmed case of H1N1 virus, or swine flu.


“With just one confirmed case, we will still proceed as normal, but will still be taking precautions,” said Billy Thurmond, the county’s director of emergency management.


“It is still important to keep working and school spaces clean and disinfected as well as washing your hands throughout the day.”


Larry Anderson, a physician who chairs the Dawson County Board of Health, said the case involved a local student who came down with flu-like symptoms over the weekend.


The patient was tested Aug. 24 and was free of fever by the next day. Officials have not said what school the child attends.


“This case poses no threat to the community or school system due to the student not being in school at the onset of the symptoms,” said Anderson, who encouraged residents to get seasonal flu shot.


“The seasonal flu shot will be available Friday by appointment through the Dawson County Health Department,” he said. “H1N1 vaccines are not expected to arrive any earlier than October, but getting the seasonal flu shot is still recommended.”


School Superintendent Keith Porter said schools are taking extra precautions, including an emphasis on personal hygiene. Teachers and custodial staff have been told to thoroughly clean classrooms and areas where there is heavy traffic.


“If we start to receive many students with symptoms including fever, we will have closely monitored areas to separate them from the other students,” Porter said.


Anderson said that he does not expect this case to cause a pandemic within the community.


“Many doctors have seen several children and adults with influenza-like symptoms,” he said. “Many people are still testing negative for the H1N1 flu. Just because you have flu-like symptoms does not mean that you have the flu.”


Jeannie Edwards, the school system’s student health coordinator, encouraged parents to stay informed and communicate with their child’s school.


“We are working closely with the public health department and the CDC to prevent the spread of this virus,” Edwards said.


She suggested parents have a plan in place in the event that their child falls ill and needs to come home from school.


“We advise parents to have a thermometer, fever-reducing medications such as Tylenol and ibuprofen, as well as plenty of liquids at home,” she said.


Symptoms of swine flu include sore throat, cough and a temperature topping 100 degrees. Others include body ache, headache, chills, fatigue and occasional diarrhea and vomiting. Recovery time is about a week.


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