Pennsauken Public Schools Combat H1N1

Written Fall 2009.

Pennsauken School District has come a long way since the outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus that shut down the Intermediate School last May.

            Action began in August to help prepare staff, parents and students for the threat of any outbreak. Measures being taken include staff meetings discussing techniques on how to handle specific cases, constant updates on the districts site with links to the Center for Disease Control and paperwork informing parents and guardians on school procedure.

            Last spring a number of students came to the nurse’s office with fevers and flu-like symptoms. The school contacted the health department who then instructed the Intermediate School to keep the children out for seven days.

            This year, any student with flu-like symptoms has to stay home from school until they have been fever free for at least 24 hours without medication. If the infected population grows, schools will return to the seven day mandatory absence policy.

            Camden County has approached the Pennsauken School District with the prospect of holding a vaccine clinic for public school students in Pennsauken and Merchantville. With a two thirds student consensus, the date has been set for December 12.

            Jane Campbell, nurse at Howard Phifer Middle School highly recommends getting this injection if it is available.

            “There are two forms of this vaccine. There is the nasal spray, which contains the live virus, and the injection, which is widely used because it is safer for a broader audience,” said Campbell.

            Anyone with underlying health problems such as asthma would not benefit from the nasal mist. In fact, it could make matters worse. In the cases of H1N1 that resulted in deaths, it was mostly because of the preexisting health conditions becoming worsened.

            With prevention and communication being the main focus points in their plan, Pennsauken schools stay in close contact with the health department and flu.gov, constantly updating their information and techniques.

            Meg Snyder, Chairperson for Pennsauken District nurses and nurse at Carson Elementary School, took charge in much of the planning. She ran a PowerPoint presentation, educating staff about the virus, as well as speaking to administrators and janitors on how to further prepare themselves for the worst case scenario.

            “We were able to get out ahead. We handed out fliers on the first day of school for all parents and guardians of students, and we took the action steps outlined by the CDC,” said Snyder.

            For the most part, parents have been cooperative, said Snyder. Although there was some frustration with the unavailability of the vaccine, she hopes that the clinic will settle the nerves of parents.

            Some parents and students are hesitant about receiving the vaccine. Snyder says they have nothing to worry about.

            “It’s just a flu vaccine. It’s manufactured the same way as any other; it’s just targeted towards a different virus. I don’t hesitate to recommend it,” she says.

            It is vital to remember that the H1N1 is a novel flu, which means it is new and before a couple months ago, no one had seen or heard of it before. This means there is no immunity to it. It seems to be targeting the under 25 age bracket, with chronic health conditions, or pregnant women.

            Pennsauken is gaining most of their information from the government flu site which contains video news briefs, as well as an interactive map which gives specific information on what is going on in each state concerning the flu.

            The measures being taken by Pennsauken have been successful thus far. There haven’t been any reported cases of the flu, but the schools aren’t taking any chances. Officials are pushing for the vaccine clinic and continuing to stay up to date and informed on what comes in from the CDC. 

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