Schools to get masks, gloves to help prevent spread of flu

Millions of protective masks and gloves will be distributed to schools throughout California to prevent the spread of swine and seasonal flu, state and county officials announced Friday.

Purchased with federal grants, the 23 million masks and gloves will be used by ill students as well as the nurses who examine them. “We want to keep students, teachers and staff healthy and in school,” said state Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell.

The announcement came as the first of Los Angeles County’s final dozen H1N1 flu vaccination clinics opened in Santa Clarita with faster-moving lines as county health officials applied many of the lessons learned from previous clinics, which had been criticized as chaotic and inefficient.

By the time the county finishes the clinics Dec. 8, they will have distributed nearly 200,000 vaccines at 109 county-sponsored clinics. County leaders say they refined their strategy after facing criticism for mismanaging past clinics, where long lines led to daylong waits for those most at risk, including small children, pregnant women and those with chronic illnesses. Some left or were turned away and lined up at later clinics in the wee hours of the morning.

Although county health officials have said the H1N1 flu peaked in mid-October to early November and fewer people are being hospitalized with the flu locally, they said a “third wave” of outbreaks is still possible and urged those most at risk to get vaccinated.

“I want to make sure people know just because we’ve reached the peak of this wave doesn’t mean you can’t get the flu,” said Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, director of the county Department of Public Health.