Will Swine Flu Follow Campers To School? Scores of children have been sent home from summer camps across the nation this summer with flulike symptoms. The outbreaks have raised concerns about what schools may face this fall.
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Will Swine Flu Follow Campers To School?

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Will Swine Flu Follow Campers To School?

Will Swine Flu Follow Campers To School?

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As we reported earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control has established priorities for who should get vaccinated for swine flu. The vaccinations would happen in the fall, but the new H1N1 strain hasn't waited for the official start of flu season.

As NPR's Ina Jaffe reports, swine flu right now is having a big impact on one venerable institution: summer camp.

INA JAFFE: Nine-year-old Jessica Sass had a great time at Camp Alonim in Southern California this summer, but she had fewer bunkmates to share in the fun.

Ms. JESSICA SASS: Yeah, six of them got sent home.

JAFFE: That's half the cabin. They developed fevers, went to the infirmary, parents were notified to come and get them.

Ms. SASS: And then we saw these two big luggage things on both sides of the door, and we all started bursting in tears and stuff. It was sad. So then there was six left.

JAFFE: And so what did the six of you do right then?

Ms. SASS: We were in a circle. We sat down on the floor and did a silent moment, and we thought about, like, everything. We were just hoping that nobody else would get sick - and they would come back soon.

JAFFE: They did come back, but out of 410 kids at Camp Alonim's first session, 160 were sent home, suspected of having swine flu. This was despite the camp's best efforts to screen them when they arrived, say Jessica's parents, Deborah and Larry Sass.

Ms. DEBORAH SASS: They actually took all of the kids' temperatures and anyone over 99.5 was sent home for seven days, like, regardless of the reason for their fever.

Mr. LARRY SASS: And, actually, where they held this was at different part of camp, so the parents or the children didn't even enter the camp until that that process was complete.

JAFFE: Swine flu has been an issue for summer camps across the nation. In Maine, which has more than 100 overnight camps, at least 33 have had outbreaks of swine flu. The Muscular Dystrophy Association, which runs 80 camps around the country, decided to cancel all sessions in July and August after a few campers in Utah, Minnesota and Pennsylvania came down with the disease. Dr. Valerie Cwik, the medical director of the MDA, says that decision disappointed 2,500 would-be campers and the volunteers who work with them.

Dr. VALERIE CWIK (Medical Director, Muscular Dystrophy Association): You know, our campers talk about camp as being, you know, the best week of the year. But, you know, we needed to, again, put the health and safety of the campers and the volunteer community first.

JAFFE: That's because people with muscular dystrophy and similar disorders are especially at risk, says Cwik.

Dr. CWIK: Children with muscular dystrophies and related diseases often have weakness of their respiratory muscles and are prone to the flu and complications from the flu.

JAFFE: The outbreaks in summer camps are a warning of what schools may be dealing with come fall. Kimberly Uyeda is the director of student medical services at the Los Angeles Unified School District. She says they're beginning to take precautions now.

Dr. KIMBERLY UYEDA (Director, Student Medical Services, Los Angeles Unified School District): We're collaborating with county public health to display posters that talk about hand washing and covering your cough and cough etiquette. You know, that's out of the ordinary for us, but it's certainly in line with I think what is being recommended.

JAFFE: School district warehouses are also chockfull of waterless hand sanitizer. And it's not just students who are at risk, says Uyeda. The district is figuring out what to do if a lot of teachers and other staffers come down with swine flu.

Dr. UYEDA: How schools continue to operate given a scenario with, you know, 20 percent absenteeism, 30 percent absenteeism or more.

JAFFE: Hopefully, it won't come to that, but really no one knows right now whether this fall, the swine flu pandemic will be devastating or just an extension of the usual flu season.

Ina Jaffe, NPR News.

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