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Officials launch swine flu
awareness campaign

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Parents of Clayton County students can expect to soon hear from the school system, and the Clayton County Board of Health, about ways to avoid getting the Novel Type-A H1N1 virus, known as the swine flu.

Board of Health Spokesperson Veronda Griffin recently met with communications, health and student-safety officials from the school system for a local launch of the Georgia Division of Public Health's "Roll Up Your Sleeves" campaign. The result of the meeting will be literature on prevention measures and the symptoms of swine flu.

The "Roll Up Your Sleeves" campaign aims to encourage people statewide to get vaccinations for seasonal flu, and the H1N1 virus. The county's health board and school system, Griffin said, will focus on their high-priority demographic - children.

"Because one of the top-priority groups for H1N1 is school-age children, we decided it would be a good idea to partner with the school system," Griffin said. "This is a good way of getting the information out to the parents."

A direct-mailing letter from school and county health officials about the H1N1 virus is being prepared to raise public awareness of ways to avoid catching the virus.

"We're hoping within the next 5 to 10 working days it will be ready to send out," Clayton County Schools Spokesman Charles White said. "We're bringing two agencies together and we have to make sure we're both on the same page about what the letter will say."

Brochures about the virus are also being prepared for distribution, White added. The direct-mailing letter, and the brochures will be printed by the school system's printing services department.

The school system and county health department are in the first phase of their awareness campaign. Griffin and White said the second phase will focus on vaccinations, and will be rolled out this fall, when the vaccine for the swine flu is expected to be ready for public distribution.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is conducting trials on the vaccine, and it may be ready in October, Griffin said.

As of Aug. 5, there had been 74 hospitalizations and three deaths in Georgia attributed to the H1N1 virus since May, according to the Georgia Division of Public Health's web site.

There has only been one confirmed H1N1 virus case in Clayton County. In May, an 8-year old girl from Mexico visiting relatives in Clayton County tested positive for H1N1, Griffin said. The youth got better after taking an anti-viral medicine, Griffin added.

"It's still out there, and it's expected to get more aggressive and virulent when it comes back in the fall," Griffin said.

Since May, Clayton County Public Schools has kept H1N1 virus information on its web site. It was posted after one of the state's first cases was found in a student at Eagle's Landing Christian Academy, in nearby McDonough.

"We've just kept a high state of awareness since then," White said.

Last week, an official with Henry County Schools announced a Luella Elementary School pupil had tested positive for the virus.

White said Clayton County school officials are reacting to the news from their neighboring school district the same way they reacted to the case involving the Eagle's Landing Christian Academy student - teachers will be sent preventative data to share with their students.

The CDC's web site says symptoms of H1N1 are similar to those of seasonal flu, and include fever, sore throat, a cough, a runny or stuffy nose, body aches, a headache, chills and fatigue.

According to Griffin and information posted on the school system's web site, practices that are recommended to reduce the spread of the seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus include:

· Going to see a health care professional as soon as a person realizes he, or she, may have the flu, or the H1N1 virus.

· Keeping sick children home from school.

· Washing hands with soap and using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

· Covering the mouth and nose while coughing and sneezing.

· Avoiding contact with the eyes, nose and mouth areas of the face.

· Avoiding contact with sick people.

· Practicing general health habits, such as exercising, drinking a lot of fluids and eating nutritious meals.