Within the next 10 days, schools under the Central Board of Secondary Education, Indian Council of School Examination and state boards will receive a government circular informing them to tell parents not to send their children to schools if they have ordinary cough and cold.
“Even if the kids do not have any history of coming in contact with known H1N1-affected patients, we want them not to go to school till fully recovered,” said an official.
The decision was taken at a high-level review meeting chaired by Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar on July 21, sources told Deccan Herald. Officials from the Health and Human Resource Development ministries also attended the meeting.
“The infection is in the community. Since symptom-wise we cannot distinguish between seasonal and pandemic flu, staying home may be a better containment strategy,” said Randeep Guleria, a pulmonary medicine specialist at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences here.
Till Thursday, with 29 new cases, the total number of reported H1N1 positive cases were 371. Of these cases, there are five students and a teacher in Delhi, besides four students in Pune. On Wednesday, four Delhi students and three Pune students were tested positive for ‘Swine flu’. The government has not issued any directive for the schools so far, but it was not in favour of shutting down schools even if some students have been infected.
While many schools in their brochures discourage children with cough and cold from attending, those guidelines are rarely followed. Local transmission of the virus in schools has occurred in Delhi and Pune. Four Delhi schools – St Thomas School, Springdales School, Sardar Patel Vidyalaya and Sri Ram School in Gurgaon –– and one school in Pune have reported that some of their students have been affected by H1N1. In this context, Guleria said, “Infants and young children are vulnerable to the virus”.
According to doctors, the Centre’s decision is misplaced since cough and cold are common during the rainy season. Besides, once the directive is implemented, there was every possibility of schools running with half-empty classrooms. However, keeping children in home quarantine would be difficult. If parents agree to childrens’ demand and go to malls and the movies, then the whole purpose of quarantine would be defeated, Guleria added.