As the bell rings for class next week in Richmond County, school and health officials are urging children to fight the flu by washing their hands on a regular basis.
Augusta Mayor Bob Young recently joined school and health officials for a news conference at Lake Forest Hills Elementary School to kick off their winter hand-washing campaign. School officials are using Mighty Med Enterprises' character Infecto to help teach pupils the importance of being clean.
Posters and stickers have been placed throughout the district's 35 elementary schools to remind pupils to frequently wash their hands and to demonstrate exactly how it is done.
Pupil Brendan Hutcheson helped put up posters at Lake Forest Hills as part of the campaign. He said the message was easy to understand.
"Before every meal, you need to wash your hands," the 9-year-old said. "Wash your hands because you don't want it to spread. It also helps you from getting sick."
The influenza virus hit Richmond County Schools hard during the 2002-03 school year causing more than a dozen schools to be included on the needs-improvement list because of attendance rates outlined in the No Child Left Behind Act. The schools had more than 15 percent of their pupils absent for more than 15 days.
"We need to do everything we can to combat the flu virus in our community and our schools, especially with vaccine in such short supply," Superintendent Charles Larke said in a news release. "Our students can't learn if they're not well and in attendance."
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Steps to follow to wash hands correctly:
1. Thoroughly wet hands with warm water.
2. Apply liquid or bar soap. The soap does not have to be anti-bacterial.
3. Work into a good lather.
4. Rub hands vigorously on all surfaces for 10 to 15 seconds. One tip: 15 seconds equals the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday.
5. Rinse well and dry. If the school restroom routinely is out of towels, bring a napkin or paper towel.Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention