With the heat of another Palmetto State summer stil very much with us, it may be hard for some of us to believe that another school year begins in less than a month. With the threat of a possible swine flu pandemic looming , the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control continues to work with school districts on strategic planning should an outbreak of the H1N1 virus occurs.DHEC spokesman Jim Beasley says the state agency does rely on its federal partners for guidance on whether it is necessary to take specific actions with schools. Beasley says DHEC has a special liason that works specifically with schools.
“DHEC shares an employee, a nurse, with the State Department of Education. She provides counsel on health matters including pandemic influenza. We’ve been advising, working with, and we’ve been exercising with school systems and school associations in preparation for a pandemic.”
In late April, Newberry Academy was closed for a week because of the swine flu virus. Thirteen seniors from Newberry Academy and three adult chaperones went on a trip to Cancun, Mexico April 16-20, and shortly after, several of them became ill.
Beasley says many schools around the state are examining the need for a separate closure plan in case of a pandemic.”Of greatest importance is their need to examine their channels of communication with the parents and their students, if those schools have to close. Most private schools follow the lead of their local public schools, however We’ve also been working with leaders from the state’s private school associations as well.”
Beasley says DHEC has been actively planning with colleges and universities for several years working very closely with USC’s Center for Public Health Preparedness as well as Clemson’s Livestock and Poultry Health program in the area of communicable diseases. Beasley says most of the work with colleges and universities are done at the local level through DHEC’s regional offices. Beasley says colleges and universities present a special situation because many have large numbers of students living on their campuses, and there like a city within a city. Beasley says a scenario in which an entire dormitory would have to be quarantined is possible, but highly unlikely.
“Usually when it comes to situations of isolation and quarantine, it’s not necesary to quarantine massive groups of people, but obviously we wouldn’t rule that out because it could become necessary. What we do is isolate the indivdual that is sick and that is systematic possibly running high fever, with a cough, body aches, chills, those type of symptoms that are associated with influenza.”