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School Sites Brace For Flu Wave
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With two peaks in the flu season already, Escalon Unified School District officials are bracing for what could be a third, with cold, windy, wet weather still having an impact.

Late August-early September saw the first wave of the flu - including cases of swine flu - hit San Joaquin County. A second wave came at the end of October into early November.

"At that time, they said there was a lot of testing being done and a lot was H1N1 (swine flu)," said Escalon Unified School District Nurse Cassie Micheletti.

There were some confirmed cases of swine flu in the county, though none documented in Escalon itself. Absenteeism was high at the school in the second wave, but Micheletti said there's no way to know if it was the regular flu or swine flu that hit, but she suspects there were some swine flu cases locally. Testing was typically being done only when a person was hospitalized with the flu-like symptoms.

"Now we've got both in the mix," Micheletti added of the seasonal and swine flu, both of which could make a comeback as the region grapples with the wintry weather.

But, she said, people can still take precautions.

"A lot of people have been getting the flu shot," she explained.

Supplies of the H1N1 vaccine are now readily available, so those that haven't gotten the shot yet can take advantage of the various clinics offered through the San Joaquin County Public Health Department, a move Micheletti recommends.

She also said that while there was concern with the second flu wave at the school, people generally did the right thing.

"Students and staff alike stayed home when they were ill, that really did help," she said. "Plus we incorporated some measures at the schools."

Having hand sanitizer available, doing some extra cleaning, and reminding students and staff to "cover the cough" helped keep the school environment a healthier one.

February through March will be a time to watch, however, said Micheletti, as the region saw an increase in flu cases last year during that time.

School sites in the district recently added some masks, which are being worn by students if they are going to be sent home sick, and are also available for office staff to use when dealing with potentially ill students. The N95 respirator masks were provided through CalOSHA, funded by the state.

Cold weather also enhances the ability of a virus to attack the respiratory system, said Micheletti, so she is anticipating seeing more cases of the flu in the weeks ahead.

"We don't want to let down our guard," she said.

Residents can contact their personal physicians for information on obtaining a flu shot or attend any of the public health clinics around the county. Vaccination clinics are scheduled in Stockton, Tracy, Lodi and Manteca. Call the county Public Health Services office at 468-3571 for additional information.