Friday, September 25, 2009

Keeping kids and child care centers flu-free

Ask any parent — little kids have a tendency to touch everything in sight. Their hands glide blissfully from doorknob to toy to nose to shoe to dog to mouth. So imagine the biological brew stirred up and shared when dozens of germy toddlers gather together. Ick!

That’s why the H1N1 flu virus, also known as swine flu, is such a concern for child care facilities. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children under 5 are more vulnerable to the virus.

If you’re a parent, guardian or day care provider, don’t despair. There are steps you can take to reduce the spread of H1N1 and keep kids healthy and happy.

• After kids have left child care, they often leave their germs behind. Staff should disinfect as they normally would, according to CDC guidelines , paying special attention to things kids touch or put in their mouths, such as toys and play areas.

• The H1N1 virus is likely to spread more quickly at child care facilities because kids share toys and eat meals together. However, before young children even enter a child care center, teachers can do a very quick health check, which helps identify sick children and prevent any infected young ones from spreading the virus.

• Very young children have not yet acquired good handwashing skills. Child care workers should monitor children carefully while they wash their hands and distribute hand sanitizer often.

• On the home front, parents should not send their children to day care if they have symptoms of flu, which include sore throat, fever, runny nose, and cough. If sick, CDC recommends kids and staff stay at home until they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medicine.

Follow the tips for keeping your tot and child care facilities flu-free and staying healthy this season will be as easy as learning your ABCs.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Flu U: Keeping campuses safe from H1N1 influenza

Heading back to college means more this fall than sorority rush, new roommates and visits to the campus bookstore. The threat of H1N1 flu — also called swine flu — has added a new concern for students, administrators and parents alike — and it’s one that’s potentially worse than a final exam.

To help colleges prepare for the H1N1 flu virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released recommendations for colleges and universities.

For college students, protecting yourself starts with good hygiene and prevention. Wash your hands often (PDF), cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, and avoid people who are sick. A new vaccine will also soon be available to help protect against H1N1 flu. Be sure to get your shot when the vaccine is available. (But CDC and other public health professionals remind you to make sure to get your seasonal flu vaccine too.)

If the virus does begin to infect people on campus, students and faculty should stick to a policy of “self-isolation.” That means students who show symptoms of H1N1 flu should stay out of contact with others and remain in their rooms until they are free of fever for 24 hours without use of medication. While this may be difficult for the overly social bunch on campus, it will help prevent the virus from spreading. Isolated students won’t be attending class, so CDC has encouraged colleges to adopt new absentee policies to enable students to remain in their rooms when they are sick.

CDC also recommends students adopt a “flu buddy” system, which essentially means people who have symptoms should help care for and check in with each other throughout the day. University staff should call, text or e-mail isolated students to check on them each day.

If handwashing and self-isolation are not enough and the spread of flu worsens, schools may take more drastic measures such as cutting down on campus-run social events and using online education as an alternative to class time.

Protect yourself on campus this fall. Follow the tips to stay healthy and you’ll be receiving that diploma before you can say “ah-choo!”

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Berkeley preventing flu in kids with fun handwashing program

With flu season just around the corner — and H1N1 flu a growing concern — health officials in Berkeley, Calif., have found that teaching kids about flu prevention in a fun way can help keep children healthy.

Through its WHACK the Flu program, a community education effort sponsored by the City of Berkeley Public Health Division, officials are driving home the message that good hand hygiene habits are important for preventing the flu. The “WHACK” part of the program’s name is an acronym for a series of flu prevention tips for kids: Wash your hands; Home is for where you stay; Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; Cover your coughs and sneezes; and Keep your distance from people who are coughing or sneezing.

The program trains volunteers to perform a skit on the dangers of “Fred the Flu Germ” and explain all of the many places germs can be found, from noses, to hands and schools. Between giggles from the young ones, the skit shows how to cover mouths when coughing or sneezing and even includes a handwashing song that helps kids learn how long to wash.

The program, which is being used by the Berkeley school district as a preventive measure against H1N1, aka swine flu, leaves kids excited about washing their hands, singing the handwashing song and tickled by the notion that they can avoid the Fred the Flu Germ by whacking the flu.

Because it can be performed anywhere, WHACK the Flu has been used by health workers around the country. Free materials from the program — including the skit, teacher evaluation form and posters — are available online in both English and Spanish. Take a look and help school kids prevent flu in your community today.

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Friday, September 04, 2009

Celebrate Get Ready Day on Sept. 15 and spread the preparedness message

Help your communities become more prepared for pandemic flu, disasters and other public health threats by taking part in this year’s Get Ready Day on Sept. 15.

Held annually on the third Tuesday in September, Get Ready Day is timed to coincide with National Preparedness Month, which urges all Americans to prepare, plan and stay informed. Get Ready Day is part of APHA’s Get Ready campaign, which is helping Americans prepare themselves, their families and their communities for all hazards they may face, including pandemic flu, infectious diseases, disasters and other public health threats.

So how can you get involved in Get Ready Day? Set up a booth on campus, pass out materials at a health department, sponsor a preparedness talk at a community center or work with a local grocery store to promote preparedness and stockpiling to shoppers. Our new Get Ready Event Guide has even more ideas, an event checklist and a sample news release. Also available online from APHA is the Get Ready Games Guide, with do-it-yourself preparedness games that can be used at a Get Ready Day event for kids. No time to hold an event? Add the Get Ready logo and link to your Web site or blog.

You can help spread the word about your Get Ready Day event by posting your activity to our free online Get Ready Calendar of Events. We’d love to hear about how you celebrate Get Ready Day, so drop us a line or send us a photo of your activities. Thanks for helping spread the preparedness message!

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