St. John school system preparing for possibility of H1N1 outbreak

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 9, 2009

By David Vitrano


RESERVE—Although there have been no confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus (swine flu) in St. John the Baptist Parish, according to a release issued by the district, local educators are taking no risks regarding the potentially deadly ailment.

“Since April of last year, we have been doing a lot, and since school started, we are doing even more,” said Director of Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities Programs Elton Oubre Jr.

Oubre recently met with a committee of nurses and other health care workers to review the parish’s pandemic plan and establish a plan for the school district in the event of an outbreak. He said he hopes to have a finalized plan in place by next month.

In the meantime, he has established a series of preventative measures to combat the spread of the virus. The measures address the various sites that have the potential for contamination, but he said one of the main ways to combat the virus remains education.

To that end, letters have been sent out to parents in the district informing them of the actions currently being taken by the district as well as what they can do to protect themselves and their families. Additionally, Oubre said instructional videos on the matter as well as pamphlets from the Center for Disease Control and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals have been ordered.

Another area the system has targeted is transportation. Buses in the district will be cleaned regularly with sanitizing products, and a meeting is scheduled for this morning to discuss proper sanitizing procedures.

In the schools, each classroom will be equipped with hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes, and areas such as doorknobs, keyboards and faucet handles will be cleaned regularly to minimize risk.

A system of monitoring the process is also in the works.

Should a student develop flu-like symptoms, that student will be isolated in the nurse’s office until a parent can pick them up. According to Oubre, the main symptom to look for is a fever of 102 degrees or higher.

Oubre said he also plans to meet with each parent-teacher organization to discuss the plan.

The efforts in St. John mirror those of the state in general. Gov. Bobby Jindal recently met with members of the Unified Command Group, made up of leaders across state agencies, to discuss Louisiana’s preparedness efforts with regard to the virus.

“We are taking many precautionary steps across state agencies to prepare for an expected increase of the H1N1 virus as we enter fall and the flu season,” said Jindal.

According to a report from the CDC, visits to doctor for flu-like symptoms are down from April but are higher than what is expected for summer. The report also said such activity is on the rise in the southeastern United States.

Some reports have stated that as many as 90,000 people may die in the United States from the H1N1 virus this flu season.