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Prevention of Zika Virus Becomes Hot Back-to-School Topic

Prevention of Zika Virus Becomes Hot Back-to-School Topic

Schools, especially those in at-risk states like Florida, are listening to earlier recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and are working to educate students and staff on how to slow the spread of the Zika virus.

"School, local, and public health authorities should work together to implement mosquito control activities and mosquito bite prevention measures in schools to decrease risk of Zika virus transmission, to apply appropriate policies for educating students and staff members, and for continuation of school operations,” said a CDC guidance from earlier in the summer.

Because Zika is not passed person-to-person through casual contact, the CDC does not recommend removing students or staff members who have the virus from school or from related activities. However, the CDC does emphasize how important schools are to ensuring that students and staff are aware of how they can play a part in preventing the disease’s spread.

"Outside of their homes, children and adolescents spend much of their time at school. Accordingly, district and school administrators play an important role in efforts to prevent possible Zika virus transmission among students and their families, particularly in schools that open their facilities to the community for events, extracurricular programs, and recreational use,” the CDC says.

As summer vacation comes to a close, schools are already heeding the CDC’s advice, particularly in at-risk areas.

In Bay County, Florida, for example, WHJG reports the coordination of the county’s health department and school officials to provide students with important information.

"Part of their work,” for example, "includes providing students age-appropriate materials on the health department's Spill the Water campaign that educates kids on the importance of dumping out standing water where mosquitoes can breed,” WHJG says.

The district has even developed a subcommittee of the School Heath Advisory Council that will work to advise schools about mosquito-borne illness protection. 

Other schools are working overtime to encourage parents to add using bug spray into their children’s routines.

"We've encouraged parents, just like with sunscreen, to spray the kids before they go to school, and if they want to leave bug repellent at the front office with their name on it, we allow them to apply that before they go outside,” said Seminole County’s superintendent of schools to WESH.com. 

Prevention of the Zika virus served as a tool for summer learning for some students, too. Before the summer’s start, the federal government encouraged high school teachers to recruit students to help track the virus throughout summer vacation.

The citizen science project provided students with the opportunity to collect real data and be part of the bigger purpose of tracking the disease’s spread. According to the project’s site, the data will be available starting this fall.

K-12 science teachers might find themselves discussing the virus in their classroom this year at least once. In 2014, when the spread of the Ebola virus captivated the world’s attention, 75% of high school science teachers said they devoted classroom time to teaching about the virus, while 9 in 10 life science teachers said the same.

80 percent of teachers said they began talking about the topic because students asked them about it first, a phenomenon that is likely to occur again this year with the Zika virus.

To find resources to teach about the Zika virus in your classroom, see here.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

8/17/2016

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