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Pupils warned not to share pens and instruments when schools reopen

CHILDREN returning to school next week should not share things such as pens or wind instruments to help prevent the spread of swine flu, according to the HSE.

The HSE has issued updated advice to schools as swine flu takes a new grip and 800,000 pupils prepare to go back to class after the extended Christmas break.

Parents and students have also been issued with guidelines as infection rates could increase once large groups of children start gathering again.

Among the advice to schools is to remind pupils of good hand hygiene and the need to cover the mouth or nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.

The HSE said hand drying facilities at school must not be shared between people with the exception of electric hand dryers and roller towels of the type that allow for a clean section to be pulled out for each use. Students may be asked to bring in and use their own individual towels.

The advice is to dispose immediately of tissues used when coughing or sneezing, and if a tissue is not available, to cough or sneeze into an elbow or shoulder, and not the hands.

Desks, door knobs and keyboards should also be cleaned regularly, while staff or students with symptoms of flu should stay at home for seven days, or be sent home.

The Department of Education has placed the HSE advice on its website, www.education.ie. The department will also set up a link to the HSE website early next week to ensure any updates are readily available.

Irish Independent