Catholic schools urged to prepare for potential flu outbreak

WASHINGTON (CNS) — As Catholic schools begin their fall classes amid threats of flu outbreaks, hand sanitizers are going to be more of a staple than ever and school officials will be urged to follow large doses of common sense.

At many schools, more than the usual cleaning up took place over the summer as desks and chairs were scrubbed with bleach in an effort to sterilize classrooms and rid them of possible germs associated with the H1N1 virus, known as swine flu. But despite schools’ best efforts to stay germ-free, flu outbreaks are still anticipated.

If students at Catholic schools are diagnosed as having the H1N1 virus, school officials are advised to follow the same protocol as public schools — to close the school only as a last resort and instead make sure those who are ill stay home until they are no longer contagious. This advice was announced Aug. 20 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Education.

Marie Powell, executive director of Catholic education for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, sent notices during the summer to Catholic school officials urging them to be aware of government guidelines for handling the flu and advising them to make the necessary preparations.

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