Swine flu prevention: Awareness must be generated at the school level itself

With the sudden surge in Swine Flu cases, it is essential that awareness be raised about its prevention especially amongst school children who run the risk of contracting the disease from their peers. Prevention of Swine Flu mainly involves taking simple precautionary steps while coughing and maintaining respiratory and hand hygiene.

Swine Flu or H1N1 influenza is a viral respiratory infection, which strikes like a ‘common-cold’ infection but is more severe in symptoms and the outcomes. The influenza virus mutates extremely fast and is highly infectious. The typical symptoms of Swine flu are a cough, sore throat, fever, headache chills and fatigue.

Respiratory hygiene involves maintaining a distance of at least 3 feet from a person who is coughing and sneezing. Proper cough etiquettedemands that the infected person ensures that he or she covers their mouth and nose with a tissue while coughing or sneezing and then disposes of the tissue immediately to stop the disease from spreading to others. In a case where a tissue may not be available, it is best to cough and sneeze into one’s upper sleeves and not in their hands or a handkerchief. Sneezing and coughing into one’s hands/ using a handkerchief are reasons why the disease spreads at such a rapid pace.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee – Dr K K Aggarwal, President HCFI and Honorary Secretary General IMA said, “In most cases the swine flu attack is mild and requires no admission and special care, it can be treated like a normal viral fever. It is important that awareness is raised especially amongst school children about necessary prevention measures. They must be taught the importance of regular hand washing especially in a season where swine flu and other infections are rampant. People suspected of swine flu must take necessary steps to avoid spreading the illness.”

In a recent study conducted by Heart Care Foundation of India, involving 63 schools (both Public and Govt.) and 6047 students (2817 girls and 3230 boys), 76% of the students (4576) did not know about the role of proper cough etiquette in preventing flu. They answered that the best way to cough was either in the hands or into the handkerchief.

Hand hygiene refers to washing one’s hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rubs. Patients suspected of swine flu must ensure that they never cough and sneeze in their hands as they can spread the infection through mere touch. School children should regularly maintain hygiene since they are in regular contact with several children who may be suffering from the disease but may not be aware of how to prevent it from spreading. It is thus necessary for all parents to educate their children about necessary preventive measures.