School braces for H1N1 virus

In a time when the threat of an H1N1 outbreak looms as an ever-present possibility in Taiwan, many are taking precautions to protect themselves and those around them from contracting the virus. Accordingly, the school has also outlined its own plans in the event of a case at school.  If a student catches the H1N1 virus, the school will comply with the Taiwanese Ministry of Education’s rigid guidelines.
According to US Associate Principal Mr Shaun O’Rourke, before school started in August, temperature checks were planned for the first week of school. Since control of the spread of H1N1 on the island had been relatively stable, these plans did not come to fruition. However, after a case of H1N1 was discovered in the lower school, and later additional cases in the community, the school’s precautions changed and temperature checks were deemed necessary. Stations have been set up at designated entrances such as the main lobby and the TYPA pick-up area, with volunteers taking temperatures upon entering the building. In addition to isolating the spreading, the checks also serve a dual purpose. They “serve as a good reminder to parents, students, and teachers – if you are sick, don’t come to school,” said Mr O’Rourke.
As specified in an email sent to parents and faculty on the third week of school from Assistant Superintendent Mr Steve Panta, if two students in a single class become infected with the H1N1 virus, the class must be closed down for a minimum of five days. Any student confirmed to be inflicted with the H1N1 virus is required to stay at home for at least 5 days, during which any siblings and other immediate family members are also asked to stay away from the school.
In a later email sent by US Principal Dr Richard Hartzell, plans were detailed to add an H1N1 Update section to the TAS website to keep members of the TAS community up-to-date with the latest confirmed cases. In addition, the school asks that the community “share[s] any pertinent health information with [the school]” in order to take all steps necessary to keep the spread of the virus in check and to prevent the spreading of rumors.
In response to these precautions, most students feel that the school is adequately primed, given the region’s recent track record with epidemics. “No one can be 100% prepared for it. Plus, not that many students are panicking since we have had the experience of SARS in the past, so we know which precautions to take for H1N1,” said Gary H. (11). Gary also stated that he feels no need to panic since this particular strain of the H1N1 virus is not as deadly as SARS four years ago.
However, some students still feel that precautions are not enough, but admit that there is no foolproof way to protect the community given the nature of the virus itself and the inconsistency with symptoms shown. Charles H. (12) said, “The temperature checks are too late. You can be contagious with the virus for 6 days without having a fever before you start to show any signs.” Other students feel that the temperature checks do not actually prevent an outbreak at school. Wesley H. (12) said that he feels that no preventative steps are being taken at all.
Although the number of cases in the school remains few, should the number increase in the future, government-advised plans will be put into action.

– Nathan W.