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CMS hopes to keep H1N1 closings at bay

Last year, several schools across the country shut down when cases of the swine flu surfaced. That didn't happen in North Carolina. And Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials have a plan they hope keeps it that way. WFAE's Simone Orendain has more: CMS is following new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control on what to do if someone gets H1N1. The CDC says schools can be closed if people who are sick keep showing up or if infections become severe. To keep H1N1 from spreading, the CDC recommends lots of hand-washing, isolating sick students and waiting 24 hours for fever to be gone before returning to school. Superintendent Peter Gorman says right now the district has no reason to believe this strain of flu will be widespread at CMS. But Mecklenburg County Medical Director Stephen Keener says historical trends show a strain of flu that starts off mild, like H1N1, can evolve into something severe in just months. "By taking these precautions both for seasonal influenza and H1N1, I think we can as a community, nation and global community we can try to do what we can to lessen the chances that that change will occur," says Keener. The district is also asking staff to stay home if they're sick. Gorman says employees shouldn't brave their illness like a badge of honor and go to work anyway. "Miss work if you are ill," he says. "It is not appropriate and not what we would want you to do. A. For your self, and B. for others. So, we will be dealing with that all year long and we will be more understanding than ever." An H1N1 flu vaccine is still being developed and is expected to be ready by November. It would have to be taken along with a regular flu vaccine.