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Gloves, masks to be distributed to schools to prevent flu

December 4, 2009 | 12:40 pm

Millions of protective masks and gloves will be distributed to schools throughout California to prevent the spread of swine and seasonal flu, state and county officials announced today.

Purchased with federal grants, the 23 million masks and gloves will be used by ill students as well as the nurses who examine them.

“We want to keep students, teachers and staff healthy and in school,” said state Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell. “Thanks to federal grant funding, we can provide masks and gloves … to schools free of charge.”

Hospitalizations from the H1N1 virus reached an all-time high in California last week, with nearly 800 people throughout the state hospitalized. But health officials believe the illness has peaked locally, though they warn that there could be another wave later this winter.

Suspected swine flu outbreaks have occurred at schools in Los Angeles County and throughout the state since schools reopened. Young people are particularly susceptible to contracting swine flu, and are on the priority list to receive a vaccine. H1N1 is highly contagious, but symptoms tend to be mild in healthy people.

Unlike last spring, officials have not closed schools because of outbreaks. Instead, they are urging prevention -- washing hands frequently, sneezing into the elbow instead of the hand and getting the vaccination. Ill children should be kept home to avoid spreading the virus to their classmates, and can return to school once they are fever-free for 24 hours.

-- Seema Mehta

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