Editor’s Note: The following article has been graciously contributed by Todd Sepulveda. Todd is the administrator of The Prepper Website, a fantastic daily compilation of preparedness resources, survival strategies and alternative news (bookmark it, because it’s updated regularly with great content!)
With three kids in elementary school, the Slavo household regularly goes on quarantine lock-down as a result of fevers, flus, vomit inducing noro-viruses, colds and a host of other surprisingly powerful (and sometimes scary) contagion the kids pick up from friends and classmates. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that once the symptoms have been identified in one of our kids, chances are that some or all of us have already been infected. In fact, it’s gotten to the point that, during the winter season, I often joke that my kids, as well as those of our neighbors, are little biological weapons just waiting to be unleashed on the population.
And it’s true – if a sinister group wanted to spread a virus and make a statement, they could easily start in a public school (of course airports and other public venues are on the list). There is simply no way to contain it once released, especially with kids sharing school supplies, food and drink, hugs, high fives, and of course, their constantly annoying lack of any reasonable level of hygiene when their parents aren’t present. By the time contagion has been identified, it’s already too late.
In his thoughts on the flu, Todd discusses his experiences as an educator in a Houston public school during the H1N1 pandemic scare which led to the closing of 11 district schools. Others, like those in our area of Houston, remained open, which led to a good deal of confusion among parents who had no idea whether the ‘pandemic’ was the real deal or simply an overreaction by school boards, medical advisers and media.
Our view, and one that Todd shares, is ‘better safe than sorry.’ If you suspect that something is up – perhaps you’ve heard that some of the kids in the area have been hospitalized, or there is a CDC warning, or you’ve been tipped off on your favorite preparedness/survival forum or web site – it may be a good time for you to take those sick days off from work and keep the kids home, isolated even from their neighborhood friends.
As Todd points out, an alarming recent development is that scientists have actually created a flu virus in a lab (H5N1), it’s much deadlier that the H1N1 and has been confirmed to be airborne. On top of that, the details on its development have been shared publicly via the internet with those who would like nothing less than to do us harm. It’s contained for the time being, but how long before this or some other deadly virus – perhaps something similar to the black death (1348 – 1350) or Spanish flu (1918) – start spreading across our very interconnected globe.
For the parents out there, consider discussing flu and cold viruses, how they spread, how to know if a friend or classmate is sick, and what protocols to follow if they suspect a buddy or girlfriend may be coming down with something. Using some of Todd’s recommendations, explain to them how to best prevent the spread, and finally, how to self-quarantine so as not to infect others and why that’s important. Additionally, consider what steps you would take if a truly deadly virus turned pandemic.
Thoughts on the Flu in our Public Schools
by Todd Sepulveda
I wear my prepper mask and cape at night when I scour the internet for great prepping articles to link to from my site. But during the day, I’m a mild mannered educator in the public school system. As I prep for the various scenarios that my family might have to go through, I often think about these scenarios happening when I’m at school with a school full of kids!
I’ve written about my worst nightmare, an EMP during school hours, before. I also often think about possible terrorism and of course natural disasters. But in this article, I want to touch on something that can be so deadly and yet creep undetected around your child’s school, the flu.
My office is close to the school clinic. I often look in and see the frequent flyer patients who are trying to avoid their school work. I give them “the look” and encourage them to get back to class and start working. But more often than I would like, I see kids laying down on the clinic beds with a cool pack on their head because they are running a fever. When I talk to these students, the story is often the same, they woke up with a fever, mom or dad gave them some Tylenol and put them on the bus! After a few hours, the Tylenol wears off and the students start feeling bad, all the while they were spreading germs all over the classroom and school. We often tell students and their parents that we want them to have good attendance, but we don’t want them to come to school sick.
In the Spring of 2009, 11 Houston area schools were shut down because of confirmed cases of the Swine Flu, H1N1. The problem could have been worse, but thank goodness that it wasn’t. The scary thing is that officials did admit that cases were slow to be confirmed because of a lack of resources. “One reason for the uncertainty is because laboratories cannot test specimens as fast as they are coming in.” http://goo.gl/7CiiW
The problem with the flu is that the little boogers don’t want to keep the status quo. They want to change and evolve and mutate! The recent experiments with H5N1 show that it only takes five mutations to get the deadly form of the flu airborne! http://goo.gl/UrSD4
Now what happens when the SHTF in the form of a flu pandemic and major cities are overrun with cases that they can’t identify? How do we protect our kids when students are coming to school sick and parents don’t do the responsible thing and keep them home to get better? You can help your child be better prepared to face the challenges of the flu in public school if you do a few things…
Give them the talk – When I was a classroom teacher, a few times throughout the year, I would give my elementary students the “germ talk.” It went something like this…
“Students today I want to take a few minutes to talk about germs. You can’t see them or taste them or smell them, but they can make you really sick. This is an example of how they can spread. Your classmate comes to school sick. They cough in their hand or wipe their nose because it is runny and then continue working or writing using their school supplies. At some point they lay down their pencil. You don’t realize that there are germs on their pencil and you pick it up, maybe by mistake. Now the germs have gone from your sick classmate to their hands to their pencil to your hands. You then touch your face, your eyes, mouth, go to lunch without washing your hands and now the germs have gone from your hand to inside your body. Now you are probably going to get sick too!”
I’ve done that same talk as an administrator too. Often I have to do it during their lunch, the last few minutes of course…it’s the only time I can get whole grade levels together at one time! The kids always get grossed out, but the parents who are eating lunch with their students always appreciate it!
Teach them to wash their hands – This is a no brainer, but you can’t imagine how many students don’t wash their hands properly. When students are caught playing in the restrooms, I always stress to them, “stop playing, do your business and wash your hands.” I’m a big user of hand sanitizer too. But this is a temporary solution until you can wash your hands properly.
Make sure they have their supplies – You don’t want your student touching or borrowing supplies from other students. It is best to make sure that they have their supplies and use what they have. Yes they are going to want to use their friend’s huge box of 65 Crayons, but try to minimize this as much as possible. Buy them the cute pencils and erasers so they would want to use their own supplies.
Teach them to cough correctly – Your child can do their part of coughing and not spreading germs themselves. Teach your child to cough in the fold of their elbow. This keeps germs away from their hands which in turn will touch everything else.
Feed them healthy food – Make sure your child is getting their vitamins and eating well. You wouldn’t believe some of the junk that kids bring and parents allow for lunch. There is no way that a lot kids are eating right. But it is important to maintain healthy bodies so that their immune system is working on all levels.
Monitor the news and be informed – If it looks like the S is HTF, keep them home. A few days of being absent is better than the risk.
In 2009, when the Swine flu was being called a pandemic, I was a little concerned that it could get out of hand. I monitored the news and monitored the clinic as well. I wanted to know from the nurse how many students were going home sick and I got info from the registrar on how many students were absent. Ultimately, it didn’t get as bad as I feared, but it could have. But the prudent thing to do is to always be vigilant and prepared.
For more info. on talking to kids about the flu, visit the CDC site – http://www.cdc.gov/flu/school/
Todd Sepulveda is the editor of The Prepper Website – http://www.prepperwebsite.com The mission of The Prepper Website is to provide links to quality articles and websites that focus on preparing for emergencies, survival, homesteading, simple life and alternative news.