Merritt directs schools, congregations to H1N1 resources

As students head back to classrooms, LCMS World Relief and Human Care Director of Disaster Response Rev. Glenn F. Merritt is fielding more questions and requflu.gifests for information about the H1N1 flu virus, especially from school administrators.

“As the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) releases more information to the public and schools re-open, there’s some anxiety out there,” Merritt said. “School administrators, especially, want to make sure they are taking proper precautions.”

Merritt urges school officials and congregation leaders to “take precautions over panic” and directs them to two central sources of information to prepare for the upcoming flu season. The first is the federal government’s CDC Web site, http://cdc.gov/h1n1flu, which includes regularly updated news and guidelines about the H1N1 flu virus.

Specifically helpful for school administrators, Merritt says, is the CDC report of recommended guidelines for schools to respond to both seasonal and H1N1 flu, at http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/schools/.

“This site provides helpful tips for staff, parents, and students, along with downloadable brochures and posters for how schools can help decrease the spread of and deal with H1N1,” he said. The list includes advice about students and staff staying home when sick and considerations for school dismissal.

Congregation leaders also are contacting Merritt with concerns about how an H1N1 flu outbreak might impact church facilities. “Because there’s a flow of people from the general community in and out of churches, leadership wants to know what they should do if [H1N1] hits their community,” Merritt said.

Questions arise about keeping church facilities open for worship, outreach activities such as food banks and disaster response, and meetings and programs sponsored by community groups.

In addition to the CDC Web site, Merritt directs school officials and congregation leaders to the LCMS World Relief and Human Care Web site, http://www.lcms.org/ca/worldrelief/dnews/, where H1N1 flu resources for congregations are posted under “Flu Outbreak Impact.”  

In April, LCMS President Gerald B. Kieschnick issued a statement urging LCMS congregations, agencies, professional church workers, and lay leaders to remain alert regarding the status of the flu outbreak and to follow the guidelines provided by local, state, and federal public-health officials. (Read the statement at http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=15127.)

While summer months are normally flu free, the H1N1 flu virus (also known as swine flu) continues to spread. As of Aug. 14, the CDC reported more than 7,511 H1N1 flu hospitalizations and 477 H1N1 deaths. 

With uncertainty about what the upcoming flu season might hold, Merritt reminds fellow Lutherans “to calmly practice precautions rather than panic, knowing our help is in the Lord, who is our refuge and strength.”

Contact Merritt at 817-504-0078 or glenn.merritt@lcms.org.

Posted Aug. 26, 2009

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