Schools around the region are gearing up for the return of students…and another, less-welcome arrival - the H1N1 flu virus.
Education and health officials are particularly concerned about the impact of H1N1 on schools, because the virus spreads quickly among children. It’s a new flu strain so few are immune. The US Department of Education is recommending that teachers post assignments online and prepare take-home learning packets so absent students don’t fall behind.
Leslie Balch of the Quinnipiac Valley Health District works with schools in Bethany, Hamden, North Haven and Woodbridge. " I believe with the pandemic situation that we should expect considerable illness. I don’t think that we’re predicting any change in the severity."Balch worked with Helen Street Elementary School in Hamden last year when it was closed because of H1N1. "We had a young classroom impacted with almost 100% illness rate. And we started seeing it amongst family members and siblings in the school. And at the time one of the things that the health district did do was make sure that the superintendents of our other school districts knew that it was a unique thing we were seeing here."
She says schools are closed only under special circumstances and for as brief a time as possible. In general, Balch recommends frequent hand washing, covering coughs, and keeping kids home when they’re sick.