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Health officials advise lots of hand washing

Fall likely to bring resurgence of H1N1 virus

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As parents send their kids back to school health officials are suggesting they remind kids to wash their hands frequently.

Cleanliness is top of the list, as schools prepare to deal with new outbreaks of the H1N1 swine flu virus this fall.

However, there are no plans to close schools in the event of an outbreak. That would only happen if there were so many kids absent that it affected learning.

"We don't expect that individual school closures, community-wide closures or province wide closures will be useful in controlling the spread and impact of the H1N1 flu virus," said provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall. "Closures early last spring were initiated out of an abundance of caution because we had very little information on the novel flu virus at that time. It has since become apparent that the disease caused by this virus is generally mild and does not warrant such severe measures."

Said Sea to Sky school superintendent Dr. Rick Erickson: "All along certainly the word from the health officials was that the closing of schools, unless there is an extreme number of kids absent, is not the way to go.

"Kids will interact whether it is in the mall or in the neighbourhood or whatever."

The school board will be sending home several documents with students explaining to parents and guardian how to recognize the H1N1 and what to do.

It has also set up a special link on its website to offer more information. Go to www.sd48.bc.ca .

It will be a challenge, said Erickson, for school staff to walk the line between letting a student stay at school with a runny nose or sending them home.

"We will be trying to encourage people to err on the side of caution without saying that the slightest sneeze means that people should be at home," he said. He added that he believes there is enough information out there now for informed choices to be made.

Everyone is being encouraged to get flu shots. The regular seasonal flu vaccine will be available in early fall, as usual. The new swine flu vaccine is currently being produced and won't be ready until November. Canada has ordered 50.4 million doses of the new vaccine and is awaiting the results of clinical trials to determine if one or two shots will be needed to provide immunity.

Health officials suspect two doses will be needed, probably 21 days apart.

Parents should expect a resurgence of the H1N1 this fall.

Throughout the summer, the H1N1 virus has been somewhat isolated, said Kendall, but when the bell rings and the hallways fill up that will change quickly.

"With back to school what we know about influenza viruses is that typically they are introduced into the younger population who generally have no resistance.

"The kids in the school sort of amplify the virus, spread it around to each other and it then moves into their families and into the community."

There are 773 confirmed cases of the virus in B.C., a third of those are kids aged five to 19.

British Columbia continues to monitor the H1N1 flu virus situation in the province. The vast majority of patients have either recovered or are recovering.

For the school guidelines and for the latest B.C. back-to-school and general information about the H1N1 flu virus, visit www.gov.bc.ca/h1n1

 

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