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State Health director urges schools to prepare for H1N1

Posted August 25, 2009
Updated August 26, 2009

— As students on traditional-year calendars returned to schools on Tuesday, State Health Director Dr. Jeffrey Engel encouraged school officials to focus on keeping the H1N1 virus – also known as the swine flu – from spreading.

Officials say the swine flu pandemic could begin hitting North Carolina as early as next week while students resume classes.

“We are not recommending any special shut down, pressure washing or any super disinfectant,” Engel said during a news conference. “Routine cleaning is all that is necessary.”

State officials update on H1N1 flu virus State Health Department speaks on H1N1

Engel said the state is taking a three-point approach to combating the virus — good hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and the isolation of students who have flu-like symptoms.

Students who show flu-like symptoms should be excluded from classrooms and moved to a designated isolation room, if available, Engel said.

The main transmission of H1N1 has been person-to-person contact.

Engel estimated Tuesday that between 30,000 and 50,000 people in North Carolina have already had the swine flu.

"As the school year begins, I'm concerned that the H1N1 virus might disrupt learning in some schools across the country," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said on Monday.

Cary student recalls having swine flu Cary student recalls having swine flu

When student Eric Young came down with the H1N1 virus in June, Reedy Creek Middle School in Cary was thoroughly sanitized and parents were notified via voice message.

“I had my 15 minutes of fame. They (students) called me piglet, and all these other names that have to do with pigs, but I just didn't really care,” Eric Young said.

It didn't take long though for the virus to spread through the Young family.

“He got sick on a Sunday. I got sick on the following Friday and went into the doctor's office. They ran the tests. Monday morning they (doctors) called me and said that it was swine flu,” mother Annick Young said.

Annick Young’s other son also got the H1N1 virus earlier this month, another indication of how quickly the illness can spread.

Duncan said schools should be ready with printed material and online lessons to keep learning going even if swine flu sickens large numbers of students.

Duncan said schools should evaluate what materials they have available for at-home learning. The latest guidance provides more details on methods schools could use, such as distributing recorded classes on podcasts and DVDs; creating take-home packets with up to 12 weeks of printed class material; or holding live classes via conference calls or "webinars."

Federal officials said earlier this month schools should close only as a last resort. They also advised that students and teachers can return to school or work 24 hours after their fever is gone; the old advice was to stay home for a week. The virus prompted more than 700 schools to temporarily close last spring.

In North Carolina, 156 people have been hospitalized with H1N1 and nine people have died, Engel said.

World Health Organization said H1N1 has killed almost 1,800 people worldwide as of Aug. 13. By definition, it is a pandemic, or an epidemic that has spread around the world.

WHO earlier estimated that as many as 2 billion people could become infected over the next two years – nearly one-third of the world's population.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said clinical trials of the swine flu vaccine "look good." Vaccinations could be ready to be administered by mid-October, she said.

"We anticipate using schools as partners to make sure that we reach out to kids who are a priority population to get the vaccination," she said.

Public health officials plan to have H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines ready and available to as many people as possible during the flu season, which typically runs from December through next May.


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  • anneonymousone Aug 26, 2009

    Jetset asked, "Do many schools have 'isolation' areas? I haven't seen any! Should they not go home if they are showing symptoms of the flu?"

    Many times, students can not contact parents or guardians, or those adults do not have transportation, so even ill childred have nowhere to go.

    Sad, but true, and sending sick students back into classrooms makes it more likely that others will be infected.

  • livinggood2 Aug 26, 2009


  • HanginTough Aug 26, 2009

    Wasn't it that POSER in the white house that said "dont panic - this will not be an epidemic, pandemic" or something like that and now 1/3 of the population will be affected. Must have been talking w/o his teleprompter again! Sounds like something that can be used to panic the people and shove his GOVERNEMNT healtcare plan down our throat! He is waaaayyyy more scary then the swine flu -

  • jhbailey929 Aug 25, 2009

    It is my own personal crackpot theory that this virus will mutate again and start turning people in to brain hungry zombies. Just in case you wanted to prepare...

  • Orange RN Aug 25, 2009


    The reason that 1/3 of the world's population may be infected is that it is a new strain of influenza virus, and we do not have any immunity to it.

    It is also pretty contagious as it is spread by both coughing/sneezing, and by contact.

  • jetset Aug 25, 2009

    Do many schools have "isolation" areas? I haven't seen any! Should they not go home if they are showing symptoms of the flu?

  • james27613 Aug 25, 2009

    If parents would teach the kids to wash up with just plain soap, skip that anti germ stuff, the entire school population would be healthier.

    Problem is those that don't keep clean infect the rest of us.

    Our govt. likes these swine flu programs, it makes them look good at election time.

    Over 30,000 people will die this year from the flu,
    we can't do anything about it.

  • NCTar Aug 25, 2009

    What is happening....1/3 of the World's population?