Mississippi schools protecting students and staff against Swine Flu

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - The Swine Flu has now spread to at least 16 states in the U.S., forcing hundreds of schools to close.  There are no cases in Mississippi.  However, on Friday, Mississippi's Superintendent of Education will announce safety measures and steps schools should take, if they have a confirmed case of the Swine Flu.

South Mississippi schools are already taking precautions.

"Has anybody in this room ever been sick?" Rachel Lacy asked a class on Thursday.

Just about every hand went up.

Rachel Lacy is a counselor at Reeves Elementary School in Long Beach.

"Does anybody know what makes us sick? What are those tiny little things?" Lacy asked.

"Germs!" the students shouted.

Lacy and school nurses are going from class to class, talking to the children about preventing the spread of viruses.  They showed the students the proper way to cough and sneeze.

"We do it with our arms," a little boy answered.

"That's right. We cough or sneeze into our elbow," Lacy said.

They also explained why everyone should thoroughly wash their hands.

"We're teaching them 20 seconds, which is about the length of time it would take to sing 'Happy Birthday,'" said Lacy. "If you feel bad, then you're not going to be able to sit and concentrate. So we're really going to go back to the basics with them, hygiene and hand washing."

Reeves Elementary and other schools in Long Beach began reinforcing these basic lessons after news of the deadly Swine Flu erupted recently. Infections have forced hundreds of schools to close in other parts of the country, including our neighboring state of Alabama.

"We ordered individual hand sanitizers for each classroom," said Long Beach School Superintendent Carrolyn Hamilton.  "The CDC recommends at least 60 percent alcohol-based in order for it to be effective against the Swine Flu."

The children rub the sanitizers on their hands when they arrive on campus, and again when they get ready to go home.

"We also ordered sanitizers for our custodians to use and so we stepped up wiping down surfaces, door handles, sinks, those common areas where germs can spread," she added.

Superintendents have another reason to be concerned about a potential outbreak of the flu.  With state tests coming up in a couple of weeks and final exams on the way, they want to make sure their students are physically healthy to finish out the year strong.

"We'll be sending home notes to parents explaining what we're doing at school, and asking them if their child is sick, please keep them home," Hamilton said.

"We want to make sure that they're healthy, because if they come to school sick, they're really not learning," said Lacy.

Other school districts are taking precautions as well, including cleaning athletic facilities more thoroughly and disinfecting school buses after they drop off the children.

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