[to top of second column]
Since it was first identified in April, the swine flu has infected more than 1 million Americans and killed nearly 600, the CDC estimates.
So far swine flu does not appear to be more dangerous than seasonal flu, which kills an estimated 36,000 Americans each year, but it appears to be more contagious and health officials are concerned that it could mutate and become deadlier.
Federal health officials are urging parents to have their kids vaccinated, but the H1N1 vaccine will not be ready until October.
In districts that have them, school nurses are developing plans to screen and quarantine sick students, teaching students proper classroom hygiene, urging parents to keep ill children at home, organizing vaccination campaigns and instructing teachers and school staff how to identify sick students.
In Utah's Granite School District near Salt Lake City, officials have prepared a pandemic response plan, but the district only has 10 nurses for 89 schools with 68,000 students.
"It would be great to have a school nurse in each school. Unfortunately, we don't have that luxury," said district spokesman Ben Horsley.
In California, where there was one nurse for every 2,240 students last year, roughly half of the state's 1,000 school districts do not have any nurses at all.
Among them is the Berkeley Unified School District, which has 17 schools with 9,000 students. The district has a partnership with the city health department to deal with school health issues, but has not had its own nurses for many years, said spokesman Mark Coplan.
"Parents have called to say, 'Is there a new policy to deal with H1N1? We say, 'No, it's exactly the same as seasonal flu,'" Coplan said. "We really want to treat this as a normal situation."
Only 19 states require certain nurse-to-student ratios, and few states set money aside to pay for nurses, according to the nurses association.
Brenda Green, director of school health programs for the National School Boards Association, is urging school districts without nurses to partner with local health agencies, hospitals and nursing schools to prepare for swine flu.
"What I'm concerned about is anyone thinking this won't happen here," Green said. "If there's no plan in place, and people just acting in an ad hoc way, that's risky."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
< Recent articles
Back to top
News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching & Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries
Law & Courts |
Spiritual Life |
Health & Fitness |
Calendar | Letters to the Editor