Health and education officials gird for flu season

The start of the school year will undoubtedly bring a rise in H1N1 infections, health and education officials said Friday as they urged parents to practice such precautionary measures with their children as hand-washing and the "Dracula sneeze."

Officials also said parents should not panic and keep healthy children home once flu breaks out on campuses.

"I want to make sure parents are not afraid to send their children to school if they are well," said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Los Angeles County's health officer. He and other educators and health officials spoke at a morning news conference at Lafayette Park Primary Center in Los Angeles.

H1N1, or swine flu, was first detected in this country in April. More than 700 schools across the nation, including 37 in California, were closed last spring because of suspected outbreaks.

The virus is highly contagious and children are particularly susceptible, but symptoms tend to be mild in healthy people. Federal officials announced earlier this month that schools with outbreaks should be closed only if they serve vulnerable populations, such as pregnant teens or students with conditions such as muscular dystrophy, or if there are too few staff or students to allow the campus to function.

Dr. Kimberly Uyeda, director of student medical services for the L.A. Unified School District, said letters about flu prevention are being sent to parents. Classrooms are being stocked with soap, tissues and paper towels, she said.

Children and adults should wash their hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds. Coughs and sneezes should be covered, said state Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, demonstrating the "Dracula sneeze," in which the sneeze is directed into the inside of the elbow.


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