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Swine Influenza: Information for Parents

April 26, 2009

Dear Parents,

The following document is provided to you in order to answer any questions you may have about the recent news report of swine flu confirmed in a non public school in Queens. We have been working closely today with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene regarding guidance for this situation. It is very important to be alert to this situation, but also to be calm. If you need more information please call 311 or your family physician.

What is swine influenza?

Swine flu is a respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses that regularly cause outbreaks in pigs. There have been reports of serious illness and deaths due to swine flu in Mexico, but the recently confirmed cases in the United States have been mild.

What are the symptoms of swine influenza?

Swine flu symptoms are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, lethargy, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu.

Is it safe for my child to attend school?

So far only one school, St. Francis Preparatory in Queens, is closed. There is no reason for anyone else to keep healthy children at home. If a child has fever or a respiratory illness they should be kept home from school until they have recovered.

What will happen if a student is sick?

The student will be evaluated by the nurse. If the nurse believes that the student may have influenza, the child will be separated from other students and sent home. The student should not take the school bus. Students with symptoms of flu should not return to school until they have been symptom-free for 1 to 2 days.

What will happen if a school employee has flu symptoms?

The person will go home and not return to school until 1-2 days after they become symptom free.

What cleaning measures will be undertaken if a child or staff member is ill?

Hard surfaces that may have been contaminated by the ill child will be cleaned with disinfectant.

Is swine influenza treatable?

Yes. Antiviral drugs work best if started soon after getting sick (within 2 days of symptoms). It is particularly important for people who have severe illness and for those with underlying illness (such as diabetes, heart, or lung disease) to be treated.

How does swine influenza spread?

Swine flu viruses can be directly transmitted from pigs to people and from people to pigs. Human-to-human transmission is also possible, and appears to be occurring with this outbreak. Spread is mainly through coughing or sneezing. People may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

How can I protect myself from swine influenza?

Here are the best ways to avoid getting or spreading swine influenza:

  • Encourage all people to cover their mouth and nose when they cough or sneeze.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you get sick, limit contact with others to avoid infecting them.

These are the same protections as those for seasonal flu and many other respiratory infections.

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This article was provided by New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Visit the NYC Health website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
See Also
Whatever Happened to H1N1 (Swine Flu) and HIV? New Answers at CROI 2010
FAQs About H1N1 Flu From The Body's "Ask the Experts" Forums
Swine Influenza and You
Preventing the Flu: Good Health Habits Can Help Stop Germs
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