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What steps did local schools take after the swine flu outbreak, and how clean are they now?

Vicky Eckenrode

There was a rash of cases of swine flu among area students in May and June, just as school was about to end for the year.

At that point in the national outbreak of the H1N1 virus, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised schools not to shut down unless there was widespread disruption since the illness was mild for most people.

Because this was a reversal in earlier guidelines when schools with outbreaks were told to close classrooms, some parents were confused as to why schools in New Hanover and Brunswick counties remained open. New Hanover schools and health department officials met with parents June 1 at Gregory School of Science, Math and Technology after four students there were confirmed with the virus.

Some parents expressed concerns that the school was not shutting down and asked about cleaning methods of the classrooms and buses in the wake of the virus.

The school system did increase cleaning measures at the schools where cases were confirmed.

Public health officials are doubtful that the extra scrub-downs are more effective than usual cleaning procedures for schools and businesses.

Zack Moore, respiratory disease epidemiologist for the state Division of Public Health, pointed out that the virus can live two-eight hours on surfaces. It is transmitted primary from person to person.

He recently advised area business owners that standard cleaning should be adequate.

The CDC gives this guidance for what kills the influenza virus:

“Influenza virus is destroyed by heat (167-212°F/75-100°C). In addition, several chemical germicides, including chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, detergents (soap), iodophors (iodine-based antiseptics), and alcohols are effective against human influenza viruses if used in proper concentration for a sufficient length of time. For example, wipes or gels with alcohol in them can be used to clean hands. The gels should be rubbed into hands until they are dry.”

Health officials say proper hand-washing and etiquette if you are sick are the best ways right now to help stop the virus’ spread:

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

If you are sick with flu-like illness, the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) Keep away from others as much as possible to keep from making others sick.


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