The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

News

April 27, 2009

Wash hands, avoid the sick to guard against flu

One school official said Monday that personal hygiene lessons taught in day-to-day classes take on added importance in the threat of swine flu.

“We promoted good personal hygiene before,” said Limestone County Assistant Superintendent Mike Owens. “We would tell students if you must share something, wash your hands and do not put your hands around your mouth. But it doesn’t hurt to have a reminder now and then.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 1,600 cases of swine flu have been reported in Mexico and 149 people are suspected to have died from the outbreak. No one has died in the United States and just one person has been hospitalized of the 40 people who have come down with the disease.

Owens said the school system has no policy on how high the percentage of absenteeism must be before temporarily closing a school.

“We would keep in close contact with the Department of Public Health, and also, we would depend upon our school nurses to decide on whether it would be in the best interest of that school or community to shut down,” said Owens.

While the strain invading the U.S. seems less severe than the outbreak in Mexico, the Department of Health and Human Services has declared a public health emergency as a precaution.

Americans are advised to avoid travel to Mexico.

Brett Westmoreland of Athens, who just returned from a honeymoon cruise to Cozumel, Mexico, with his bride, Jamie Phillips, said they probably would not have canceled the cruises, even if they had known about the swine flu outbreak before departing.

“We went by ship and didn’t see anyone who was sick,” said Westmoreland.

He said the precautions taken at airports, such as personnel in masks and taking of temperatures was not done at the ports.

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