How US schools aim to handle swine flu
As several states begin receiving the swine flu vaccine, here is a Q-and-A on what parents can expect to happen at schools.
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No. In general, vaccination requirements are made at a state level, but at this time, no state is requiring flu shots for either seasonal flu or H1N1.Skip to next paragraph
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No unvaccinated child will be denied entry to a school at this point.
The swine flu vaccine began arriving in several states this week, and wider distribution is expected later this month. The CDC recommends the vaccine for individuals between 6 months and 24 years old, among other groups.
Will schools be used as vaccination sites?
Possibly. With a mass vaccination program expected to roll out this fall, health officials are looking for convenient public places to administer shots. Schools are particularly attractive to some public health officials given that schoolchildren are among the targeted groups for vaccination.
"The [Education] secretary has been making the point that he feels schools should be part of the solution, but it's a local decision," says Mr. Hamilton of the Department of Education. "Some school districts have announced they're going to [host vaccination sites]. Others won't do it."
In most cases, vaccination sites have yet to be decided.
Any child would need a parent's consent before receiving a flu shot. Schools that act as vaccination sites may send home consent forms beforehand to streamline the process and determine how many students are likely to participate.
Can the government forcibly quarantine a child?
No. Despite some rumors circulating in the blogosphere, no one will be forcibly quarantined, although schools may require a child showing symptoms to stay in a quarantine room until the child can go home.
Who decides whether to close a school, and who handles policies related to a flu epidemic at school?
All school decisions are made locally, although the CDC issues guidelines that many districts follow. "What happens in one school or district is not necessarily what will happen in a neighboring district," says Ms. Greene of the NSBA.
How are colleges responding to cases?
The American College Health Association (ACHA) reported about 6,500 new flu cases on US campuses in just one week in September. But in general, cases have been relatively mild, and students have been able to return to classes quickly.
The tight living quarters of colleges can be a concern, but schools are responding to various flu challenges in innovative ways. A few schools with vacant dorms – including Emory in Atlanta and Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh – have set aside space for students with symptoms. Most colleges, however, are asking students to isolate themselves.
Colleges are giving thought to how to educate students about hygiene and other techniques aimed at prevention. At the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, officials have found they get the best response with signage in dorm bathrooms in what they call their "stall seat journal," says James Turner, executive director of UVa's student health department there and president of the ACHA.
Most campuses, he says, are likely to administer vaccines when they're available, but in no case will they require students to be vaccinated.
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