With about a week to go before the beginning of the new school year, New York City officials have announced a new slate of strategies to combat swine flu –including offering students free vaccines for seasonal and H1N1 flu.
Mayor Bloomberg is handling the situation responsibly. It is understandable for parents to be concerned, but the media has played a role in stoking fears over a relatively benign threat. The seasonal flu is more dangerous than the current H1N1 virus.
The city has actually put together a comprehensive contingency plan that includes more than just elementary school students.
The city will offer free flu mist and flu shots for H1N1 to elementary school students whose parents want them to receive it; encourage New Yorkers to get flu shots for H1N1 and seasonal flu; help people with flu-like illnesses manage their symptoms and find care; work with hospitals to ensure the availability of expanded emergency room capacity if it is needed; and designate primary-care clinics as”flu centers” that can give flu shots, information and outpatient care.
There is a possibility that the virus will mutate and return next season in a more virulent form. We will deal with that if it should happen. Until then, parents should keep things in perspective.
The Glen Cove School District in Long Island, for example, advocates a “no-touching” policy. That means no hugs, no handshakes, no high-fives among students — a stringent measure some critics argue is unrealistic.
Thanks to neurotic Long Island parents, we can recommend becoming a therapist as a lucrative career choice. If it were up to them the schools would be closed every time little Johnny had hard gas and pooed himself.