Planning helped but it was improvisation using cell phones and sticky notes that enabled school nurse Mary Pappas to cope when the U.S. swine flu epidemic started in her tiny office in April. St. Francis Preparatory High School was an early epicenter of what has become the first pandemic of the 21st century, the new H1N1 influenza virus, and the New York City Health Department documented at least 69 cases at the private academy.
But on that first morning in April, Pappas knew there were many more, Reuters reports.
"I had many, many, many children come in my office … with fevers, coughs and such looks of despair because they had left their homes that morning feeling well," Pappas told a meeting organized by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department at the National Institutes of Health near Washington.
"They were genuinely scared," Pappas said. "(I knew) that if I remained calm, even though I was dying inside, they remained calm."
Pappas spoke at a session of educators at the "summit" of state and local health officials. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told them earlier in the day to get ready fast for a possibly worsening pandemic of H1N1 flu. Schools are always a breeding ground for infections but this virus has hit school-aged children especially hard. In part because of this, Sebelius said a federally funded vaccination campaign against swine flu, if one is ordered, may make use of schools…
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