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Louisiana Health officials offer tips to keep kids safe from flu

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  • Louisiana Health officials offer tips to keep kids safe from flu

    Health officials offer tips to keep kids safe from flu

    By Nikki Buskey
    Staff Writer

    Published: Monday, August 17, 2009 at 12:00 p.m.

    HOUMA ? With school back in session and flu season on the way, health officials are quietly preparing for the possibility that the H1N1 ?swine? flu might make a strong reappearance this fall.

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    Last month, after attending a swine flu conference in Washington D.C., Louisiana Secretary of Health and Hospitals Alan Levine said that officials are expecting a ?highly active? fall flu season.

    So far, H1N1 flu has been milder than health experts expected.

    Families are especially at risk for infections as they crowd back into classrooms for another year of school, said officials at Ochsner St. Anne General Hospital in Raceland.

    ?Parents and teachers can help with the prevention of H1N1 by encouraging frequent hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer,? said nurse practitioner Angelique Torres.

    Only one Louisiana resident has died from complications related to H1N1 swine flu. A 21-year-old woman from the New Orleans area was confirmed by the state to have died from the H1N1 flu last week.

    There have been 346 confirmed cases of H1N1 in Louisiana since the virus emerged in spring. There have probably been many more people infected with mild swine flu in the state, but they are unconfirmed because the state is no longer testing patients except in the most serious cases.

    State Epidemiologist Raoult Ratard estimates that more than 15,000 Louisianans have become ill with H1N1 since April.

    Nationally there have been more than 6,500 hospitalizations and 436 deaths attributed to H1N1, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than one million people became ill with H1N1 flu between April and June this year.

    The first and best line of defense against the spread of the flu are Louisiana residents themselves, Levine said. Everyone can take simple steps to protect themselves and their loved ones from the flu.

    Though most would agree it can be tough to get kids to practice good hygiene, Torres had some tips from the Centers for Disease Control:

    n Teach kids to wash their wash hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds. This should be long enough for children to sing the ?Happy Birthday? song twice. You can set a good example by washing your hands too.

    n Wash your hands and your children?s hands or use hand sanitizer before eating anything.

    n Kids should also cough and sneeze into a tissue, not into their hands. Children often forget to wash their hands after coughing or sneezing into them.

    If your child does get sick, Torres said, wait until their fever has been gone for at least 24 hours, without using medicine, before you send them back to school.

    The regular flu vaccine is unlikely to provide protection against H1N1 flu. An H1N1 vaccine is under development and may be ready for the public this fall. All children, 6 months to 18 years, are encouraged to get flu vaccines.

    ?It is important we all remain vigilant for symptoms of flu-like illness, and be serious about taking preventive measures against the spread of flu,? Levine said.
    "Safety and security don't just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear."
    -Nelson Mandela