The Pickerington Local School District is taking simple steps it hopes will avert or minimize an outbreak of influenza among students and staff members.

The Pickerington Local School District is taking simple steps it hopes will avert or minimize an outbreak of influenza among students and staff members.

The most important one: telling those who are sick to stay home.

"With H1N1, it's really the same thing we do with any flu - stay home," Superintendent Karen Mantia said today, Sept. 28, during a Pickerington Board of Education meeting.

To make sure Pickerington schools don't contribute to the spread of H1N1 locally, the district is mailing flu-prevention information to students' homes. It's also providing regularly updated H1N1 information on its Web site, www.pickerington.k12.oh.us.

"Our policy has always been that students with flu must be fever-free without medication for 24 hours before they come back to school," Schmitz said. "People also should adhere to routine cleaning practices, like frequently washing their hands."

School health coordinator Sharon Schmitz said hand sanitizer units will be installed in cafeterias at all district schools. She added that public service announcements about H1N1 and seasonal flu and preventing their spread will be broadcast weekly during schools' morning announcements.

Additionally, district officials are urging students to wash their hands frequently and cover coughs and sneezes to avoid spreading flu gems.

Later this month, the federal government is expected to release an H1N1 virus vaccine that be distributed throughout Fairfield County by the county health department.

"The health department is going to have strike teams come out to the schools," Schmitz said. "If parents consent to it, then students in K-12 will be vaccinated, free of charge.

"We don't want (parents) to panic," she said. "We are doing everything we can to try to keep the kids safe and in school. Should someone become ill, we're trying to get them up and out of here as quickly as possible. But if a student is sick, they should be kept home."