CDE distributes flu safety and prevention devices

The California Department of Education has begun distributing a flu prevention package that includes ear loop surgical masks that can be worn by infected students or staff until they can go home; respirator masks to be worn by onsite health care providers while they monitor the sick; and latex-free gloves that can also be worn by a school caregiver.

These materials are being provided to the field to assist in ongoing efforts (in flu prevention), said CDE Spokeswoman Hilary Mclean.

This is not intended to alarm anyone that there is new threat we need to arm against, she added. These types of personal protective equipment are specifically recommended in guidance from the federal government as well as our state department of public health.

The supplies, paid for with federal funding, were released last week by the CDE to county offices of education up and down the state. State officials said the other items will be distributed in mid-December.

Although districts are expected to utilize the free safety devices, a downturn in the number of flu-related school closures could be a signal that the U.S. has passed through the worst of the national swine flu pandemic.

According to daily internal reports between the U.S. Department of Education and Center for Disease Control, no schools closed last Friday as a direct result of H1N1. Thats the first time since September no school in the country has been reported to be closed as a result of the flu.

The closures reached a record high on October 23, 2009, with 351 schools closed on that day.

Recent changes to school policies regarding both flu-related prevention techniques and school closures may have factored into the national downturn, a spokesman for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently told USA Today.

Nevertheless, said McLean, schools can always benefit from free, available health tools as the devices are not limited to preventing the spread of H1N1 alone.

Were going to have influenza viruses for some time, she said. Whether its H1N1, seasonal flu or another pandemic, these supplies will help keep students and staff healthy.

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