Nunavik schools prepare for swine flu

First lesson: wash hands, clean the schools


Now that Nunavik’s school-age kids are back in the classrooms, the first lesson they’ll learn is how to scrub and sanitize their hands.

To prevent the spread of swine flu among Nunavik school-children, hand sanitizers will be used throughout the region’s schools and child care centres.

And when kids go home, cleaners will systematically disinfect every door knob and surface in the buildings to keep them germ-free.

Hand sanitizers will greet students and staff at the entrance of every school and in classrooms, and toys at child care centres will be regularly cleaned.

The beefed-up cleanliness campaign is part of Nunavik’s campaign to stop swine flu in its tracks.

Any students or tots in child care who fall sick despite these efforts will be asked to spend seven days at home so that they don’t spread swine flu to others.

Containing the spread of swine flu among children and youth is essential, said Dr. Serge Déry, Nunavik’s public health director.

“At least 50 per cent of our population is in this group,” he said.

As of this week, a total of 17 swine flu cases had been confirmed in Nunavik by laboratory tests.

On August 20, two residents of the Hudson Bay residents— one in Inukjuak and another in Akulivik — tested positive for swine flu.

Until now, all Nunavik’s lab-confirmed cases were in Kangiqsualujjuaq and Kuujjuaq, Déry said.

Many more people likely also fell ill with the H1N1 virus that causes swine flu, but Nunavimmiut were fortunate to have mild cases.

“Everybody recovered well,” Déry said.

Now, public health officials want to make sure that the second wave of swine flu doesn’t strike the region harder.

“We’ve had a relatively low number of lab-confirmed cases,” Déry said. “We’re crossing our fingers that now it’s on the Hudson Bay.”

Quebec plans to start vaccinating all Nunavimmiut by mid-October against the seasonal flu— earlier than usual.

“It’s voluntary, but everyone will be encouraged to get vaccinated,” he said.

Later in the autumn, Nunavimmiut will also be able to receive the double-doses of the swine flu vaccination.

“But when and how many doses is anyone’s guess at this point. We don’t know whether it will take one or two doses to be effective or when it will be available in Canada,” Déry said. “It certainly won’t be before November 15.”

Tamiflu, a preventive anti-viral medication, is already available to pregnant women who are directly exposed to swine flu at home.

“If they’re not exposed, we won’t give them tamiflu,” Déry said.

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