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Why Are People So Concerened About H1N1 Flu?

January 5, 2010
Times Observer

H1N1 is affecting more young children than the normal strain of the flu. Children younger than age five, and especially children younger than age two, seem to be more vulnerable to complications from H1N1 flu. This is a new strain of flu, and epidemiologists are still trying to understand it.

What should you do before the flu hits your child care program? • Consult with your doctor about getting your child vaccinated for seasonal flu and 2009 H1N1 flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends children from 6 months–5 years be vaccinated for seasonal flu and 2009 H1N1 flu. • Update your contact information so you can be contacted easily if you need to pick up your child. • Tell your child care program if your child has an underlying health condition such as asthma, that would put your child at high risk of flu complications. • Ask to see your program’s crisis response plan. If they do not have one, encourage them to develop one. • Plan for alternate child care in case your child care program temporarily closes. Note: This issue of The Daily Parent is based on information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Informa- tion about H1N1 flu is updated as new data become available. For the most current information, consult the references at the end of this newsletter.

What you should expect your child care program to be doing to prepare for the flu? • Encourages staff to get vaccinated for seasonal flu and 2009 H1N1 flu. According to NACCARRAware: The CDC recommends that all people who care for children younger than 6 months old be vaccinated. • Does a daily health check with your child before you leave the program every day. Children and staff should not come to the child care program while they are ill. • Isolates sick children and employees from others as much as possible. There should be a limited number of staff who care for a sick child. • Makes sure your child is fever-free (without fever- reducing drugs) for 24 hours before your child is allowed return to the program. • Teaches your child to cover coughs and sneezes. Your child should cough or sneeze into a tissue, discard the tissue and wash her hands. There should be easy access to tissues and trash cans. If tissue is not avail able, your child should be taught to cough into her elbow or shoulder. • Teaches your child good handwashing technique. Children and staff should wash their hands often with soap and water. The program should provide ade- quate supplies of liquid soap, paper towels and hand lotion. • Washes your child’s hands as needed if he cannot wash them himself. • Encourages your child to keep her hands away from her face. • Keeps surfaces (especially tables, surfaces in the bath room and toys for children) clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant according to directions on the product label. It is not necessary to disinfect these surfaces beyond routine cleaning. • Separates linens, eating utensils and dishes belonging to those who are sick before they are washed. They do not need to be cleaned separately, but these items should not be shared without washing thoroughly first. • Washes eating utensils either in a dishwasher or by hand with hot water and soap. • Washes linens (such as sheets and towels) by using household laundry soap and tumbling them dry on a hot setting. • According to the CDC, employees who are well but who have an ill family member at home with 2009 H1N1 flu can go to work as usual. These employees should monitor their health every day, and take every day precautions including covering their coughs and sneezes and washing their hands often with soap and water, especially after they cough or sneeze. Warning! Your child care program should not give aspirin to children who may have the flu; this can cause a rare but serious illness called Reye’s syndrome.

How should you treat your child with H1N1 flu? • Be prepared in case you need to stay home for a week or so. In addition to normal groceries, a supply of over-the-counter medicines, tissues and other related items could help you to avoid the need to make trips out in public while you or your child are sick and con- tagious. • Talk with your doctor to decide if there should be any medical treatment. • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest. • Make sure your child drinks clear fluids (such as water, broth, sports drinks, electrolyte beverages for infants) to keep from being dehydrated • If you or other household members are at high risk for complications from influenza, consider wearing a facemask – if available and tolerable – when sharing common spaces with other household members to help prevent spreading the virus to others.

Heidi Woodard is a resident of Jamestown, NY. She graduated from Jamestown Community College with honors, and earned an Associates degree in Social Sciences. She also graduated from SUNY Fredonia with highest honors earning a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. She is currently employed with the Chautauqua Child Care Council a service of Chautauqua Opportunities, Inc.

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