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New three R's could cut flu in schools
Public health
Joanne Burnsed USE
Joanne Burnsed, R.N., is the Bryan County Health Department Nurse Manager. - photo by Photo provided.

School is back in session and students are beginning to find their way around new classrooms and new subjects.

No matter what the grade level, the 3 Rs – reading, "riting" and "rithmetic" – have always served as the foundation of education. But when it comes to the public’s health, the 3 Rs have an entirely different meaning.

Back to school means sharing more than summertime memories. It means that a lot of students, teachers and staff will also be sharing personal space, computers, desks, cafeteria tables, pencils and books. And sharing is a good thing, except when it comes to germs. A lot of viruses — including the flu — are spread by touching something that has the virus on it and then touching parts of your face. So this year, the Bryan County Health Department would like to everyone to remember the 3 Rs of staying healthy:

Resist touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs are often spread that way. Many viruses, such as the flu, are also spread through droplets when a person coughs or sneezes so it’s important to remember to cough into the crook of your elbow — not your hand — to keep protect those around you.

Rest if you come down with something. Stay home if you get sick to avoid giving others whatever illness you have. Don’t go back to school or work until you have fully recovered. In terms of the flu, you should stay home until you have been fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medication.

Remove dirt and germs by washing hands frequently throughout the day with soap and water. Washing your hands on a regular basis is one of the best ways to prevent from getting and spreading germs. It’s especially important to wash your hands after using the restroom, before eating, after blowing your nose, and after touching garbage. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds when washing with soap and water. That’s about the amount of time it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

As we move closer to the end of summer and look toward the start of fall we want to be proactive when it comes to influenza. Getting the flu can mean lots of missed days of school, work and recreational activities.

The best way to avoid the flu is to get vaccinated. The Bryan County Health Department, along with most doctors’ offices and some pharmacies, will offer the flu vaccine. The health department will be holding flu clinics in Bryan County schools so look for more information to come home with students. Having your child vaccinated at school is an easy, convenient way to help protect them against the flu. It’s important to note that in accordance with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the nasal spray form of the flu vaccine will not be offered this year due to lack of effectiveness. The flu vaccine will be offered in the injectable form only.

It is recommended that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated against the flu. Sometimes flu seasons are uneventful and sometimes the flu strikes hard. We never know how bad a flu season will be, which is why it is so important to get vaccinated every single year.

We may not be able to stay well all the time but we can take steps that will help keep away certain illnesses such as common colds, the flu, and stomach viruses. Practicing good hygiene; cleaning and disinfecting surfaces at school, home, and work; washing hands regularly; and avoiding close contact with sick people will go a long way toward keeping our students — and our community — healthier.

The Bryan County Health Department Pembroke clinic is at 430 Ledford Street in Pembroke and can be reached by calling 912-653-4331. The Bryan County Health Department Richmond Hill is located at 66 Captain Matthew Freeman Drive, Suite 159, and can be reached by calling 912-756-2611.

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