San Mateo County public schools are bolstering preparations for a possible influenza outbreak as concerns over swine flu resurge with winter fast approaching.
Districts have been putting together comprehensive plans with the help of the San Mateo County Office of Education and submitting them to county health authorities.
Meanwhile, College of San Mateo’s Health Center is expected to give swine-flu vaccinations to students, teachers and others at that campus starting next month.
“A lot of students are sick already,” said center coordinator Sharon Bartels. “A lot of viruses are going around right now.”
Districts have been developing detailed response plans for the flu — swine or otherwise — after the county Health System asked that schools have such documents, said Peter Burchyns, a spokesman for the education office.
So the education office created a template of more than 100 pages that districts have been tailoring to their specific needs, Burchyns said. Most of the districts have submitted their plans to the health department for review and feedback, he said.
The plans include flu-prevention strategies, reporting procedures, health resources and forms used to track sick students. They recommend frequent hand-washing, making surgical masks available and the constant cleaning of common areas in schools to help prevent the spread of any flu virus.
“We’re getting health advisories saying that there’s the possibility of a more severe round of flu this year than last year,” said Burchyns, who worked with health officials to craft the template. “We want people to be prepared.”
The education office is also serving as a liaison between the districts and county health officials with respect to flu information, he said. If there’s a new advisory, for instance, health officials will send the information to the education office, which in turn will pass it on to the districts.
“We have established ways to get the word out quickly to the districts such as e-mail lists,” Burchyns said. “It’s more efficient, and we’re not duplicating information or (spreading) misinformation.”
Districts can also go to the education office’s Web site for flu-related updates and resources, he said.
According to health officials, the county has seen 268 swine flu, or H1N1, cases, with 57 hospitalized and eight deaths since April.
No local schools have yet been closed because of the swine flu. In general, schools will not do flu vaccinations, Burchyns said. Instead, families are advised to go to their health provider or seek out a clinic.
CSM’s Health Center, however, has been giving seasonal flu shots to students and others on campus since last month, Bartels said.
“We’ve already given 500 shots” compared with the 200 or 300 during a typical flu season, she said.
In a couple of weeks or so, she said, the center will begin swine-flu vaccinations.
“We asked for 800 doses,” she said, “but we might get 500 doses.”
So far, about 600,000 doses of the nasal-spray form of the swine flu vaccine and 150,000 injectable doses of the medicine have been distributed statewide.
The center has also provided College of San Mateo students with free flu-prevention kits, which include a hand sanitizer and mask, Bartels said. In addition, the center plans to place large hand sanitizers in areas where groups congregate such as a computer laboratory or weight room, she said.
“We’re trying to keep people healthy,” she said.
This article first appeared at: http://www.insidebayarea.com/sanmateocountytimes/localnews/ci_13586267hockey/106575