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Get Smart About Swine Flu for Back-to-School
Date:8/14/2009

Simple steps can minimize the risk as fall looms, experts say

FRIDAY, Aug. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Students returning to school this year have another worry besides homework and lunchroom bullies: swine flu.

Experts say parents and kids need to act early and vigorously to reduce their risk of contracting the H1N1 virus.

"We do know that [the virus] is going to strike the school-age child and it's primarily because they're in crowded classrooms with lots of other children and have a better chance of spreading germs," said Sharon A. Wilkerson, dean and professor of the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing in College Station. "Parents need to pay attention earlier and more urgently. We're still seeing cases of swine flu and I think we're going to see an increase with the start of the school year."

"We're giving advice with a new conviction," added Dr. Michael Spigarelli, assistant professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. "The common perception is that kids are going to get sick and a certain amount of getting sick is how the immune system builds itself up. We're saying that this flu season may be potentially worse."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 55 million students and 7 million staffers head to the nation's 130,000 schools each weekday during the school year.

As always, the first line of protection will be good hygiene.

"The main thing is good hand-washing," said Dr. Stuart E. Beeber, an attending pediatrician with Northern Westchester Hospital in Mt. Kisco, N.Y.

If soap and water aren't readily available, make sure your child has hand sanitizers in their backpack, along with other school supplies. Washing or sanitizing should take place before every meal and every snack, even if it's just cookies in the classroom. "We've just got to drill that into children
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