School nurses few as Swine Flu looms

September 3, 2009 2:54:22 PM PDT
When the school bell rings, making the grade may be the main concern for students. But, administrators have other worries."The Swine Flu is something we're probably gonna have to address," explained Broughton H.S. Principal Stephen Mares.

As students fill classrooms across the country, health officials warn of possible Swine Flu outbreaks. The Centers for Disease Control now believes school-age kids may be most at risk to die from the disease.

There may be even greater odds against North Carolina schools because of a lack of medical staff.

"Not having a school nurse here on a daily basis is frustrating," said Mares.

Like most other schools in Wake County, Mares' 2240 students get a nurse one day a week.

"Even that, when she's busy in another school, if there's an emergency that comes up, we might not have her here," he explained.

The CDC recommends that schools have one nurse per 750 students. Last year, the National Association of School Nurses found the ratio in North Carolina was one nurse per 1350 students on average.

Those stats raise concerns that the shortage could undermine efforts to catch and control what could be a deadly flu season.

"It just puts a lot more stress on the nurse because we're going to be calling on her when we have emergencies and all the other schools are going to be calling her as well," said Mares.

Nurses who work in Wake County schools aren't actually employed by the school system. They're Wake County employees and budgets are tight across the board.

"I would imagine it's budgetary to have one nurse at every school. That's a lot of money," said Mares.

That's money that doesn't exist in the ongoing recession which means prevention may have to be the best medicine. Teachers are reminding kids about good hygiene, washing hands, and coughing into elbows instead of hands.

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