Parents may keep kids at home if schools remain open during H1N1 outbreak


REDWOOD CITY, Calif. There is a strong indication that if schools do not close in the event of an H1N1 flu outbreak, parents may take it upon themselves to keep their healthy kids home, according to a survey of parents released Saturday.

Approximately 52% of parents said it was “highly or somewhat likely” they would keep their children from school if there were three confirmed cases of H1N1 flu at their child's school and it remained open, the survey found.

Almost 1-in-4 parents suggested that schools should close temporarily if even one case of novel H1N1 influenza is diagnosed; 41% think schools should close if two to ten cases are reported.

There is also an undercurrent of concern regarding whether or not parents should inoculate their children against H1N1 if and when that vaccine becomes available. While 39% of parents indicated they would "definitely" have their children vaccinated, 53% remain undecided. As many as 7% of parents say they "probably" or "definitely" will not give their child the H1N1 vaccine.

Safety seems to be top-of-mind for parents who are not definite about giving their children the vaccine with 61% noting "safety of the immunization" as a concern. Almost half (48%) say they're concerned about how effective the vaccine will be and a third (32%) are concerned their child could get the flu from the immunization, even though the vaccines contain inactivated viruses (with the exception of MedImmune’s FluMist).

Children and young adults between the ages of six months through 24 years have been identified as high-priority populations for the H1N1 vaccine, according to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, especially young adults between the ages of 19 and 24 “because many cases of 2009 H1N1 influenza have been seen in these healthy young adults and they often live, work,and study in close proximity, and they are a frequently mobile population,” the CDC stated.

"Parents are appropriately concerned about their children's and family's safety as we hear more and more about the possibility of a widespread H1N1 flu outbreak across the country this year," stated CEO Ronald Fortune. "Most schools are closely following CDC recommendations to be sure they are doing everything they can to minimize the risks of the H1N1 flu to students and staff. The key is for principals and superintendents to make sure that they are keeping parents tightly in the loop about these efforts. Parents need to know through clear and frequent communication exactly what the schools are doing to help prevent the spread of the virus and what parents can do at home to help. There's no reason every school in our country shouldn't get an A+ from parents for their management of H1N1 this year."

When it comes to families' behavior around H1N1 flu safety, the majority of parents reported engaging in many behaviors the CDC says are most effective in helping prevent the spread of the H1N1 flu. As many as 69% of parents indicated that during last year's H1N1 flu outbreak their families engaged in frequent hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer.

More than 55% reported covering their noses or mouths when sneezing or coughing and 51% say they avoided contact with sick people. Most parents (67%) said they'll do the same things this year to try to avoid the flu while almost a third (31%) indicated that they will take more preventive measures this year than last.

The H1N1 flu (Swine flu) survey was conducted August 14-18, 2009, with online surveys of 411 parents with one or more school-aged children living in the home.

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