BISMARCK (AP) - North Dakota schools' best strategy for fighting swine flu is to encourage young people to wash their hands, get vaccine shots and stay home if they are ill, a disease specialist says.
North Dakota's Health Department is putting much less emphasis on the option of closing schools if there is a swine flu outbreak, Kirby Kruger, an agency epidemiologist, told the Legislature's interim Education Committee on Tuesday.
"School dismissal is an option, but it's not an option that we want schools to be considering up front," Kruger said. "We really have moved our focus away from school dismissal, and to doing the things that schools can do to try to keep schools open."
Special school cleanings are not necessary, although extra attention should be paid to doorknobs, computer keyboards and other frequently touched surfaces, he said.
"Routine cleaning of the schools is all that's really recommended," Kruger said. "Closing a school to clean it is really a feel-good type of activity, because 10 minutes after you reopen the next day, it's contaminated again."
As of Tuesday, North Dakota has had 285 cases of flu, including 59 cases of swine or H1N1 flu, according to the Health Department's Web site.
Kruger said swine flu has mostly hit younger North Dakotans. Fifty cases involve North Dakotans under 30 years old; of those, 28 have been diagnosed in those 19 and under.
Bismarck's two public high schools have suspended an incentive program that allowed students with exceptional attendance records to skip most final exams, with officials fearing that the policy could encourage ill students to come to school anyway.
Wayne Sanstead, North Dakota's superintendent of public instruction, said he was pleased by schools' monitoring of the swine flu threat. He praised their preparation and coordination with health authorities.
The first shipment of 4,000 doses of swine flu vaccine is expected by early next week. Health officials want those doses reserved for health care workers.
The state should have "very significant" quantities of vaccine by the end of November, Kruger said.