Don’t have soap, water? Use sanitizer!

Upon being informed that poor peasants of France had no bread to eat, Marie Antoinette , Queen-consort of Louis XVI of France, exclaimed "let them eat cake".
Don’t have soap, water? Use sanitizer!

Upon being informed that poor peasants of France had no bread to eat, Marie Antoinette , Queen-consort of Louis XVI of France, exclaimed "let them eat cake".

Three centuries on, the phrase has found a 21st century avatar in Swine Flu-hit Kashmir.

At a time when people are struggling for basic amenities, the health authorities want the schoolchildren to fight the deadly flu with tissues and sanitizers, provided they don't have access to less costly soap and water.

This is not any figment of imagination but the advisory by the Directorate of Health Services Kashmir (DHSK) for Valley schools reopening after winter break.

Failing in timely public awareness and preparedness for the epidemic, the DHSK now wants to shed any responsibility if schoolchildren catch the infection.

Sources said the Directorate of School Education Kashmir (DSEK) shot letters at least twice to the health authorities including Director SK Institute of Medical Sciences.

While the SKIMS Director Dr Showkat Ali Zargar in his earlier response had advised that schools be kept shut for around 10 days, DHSK has been avoiding the question by issuing advisory, which allegedly lacks commonsense.

The DHSK vide no. DHSK/PS/MF/SF/3817 dated March 6, 2015 has mailed the advisory which reads: "Advisory for School Administrators and Teachers: Encourage hand hygiene among students and staff.

Make slogans like Clean Hands Save Lives visible in school premises and classrooms.

If soap and water are not available and hands are not visibly dirty, a hand sanitizer may be used."

DSEK is circulating the advisory for public awareness when sanitizers, like vaccines, are mostly out of stock.

"Routinely clean surfaces and objects that are touched often, such as desks, countertops, door knobs, computer keyboards, hands-on learning items, faucet handles and phones. Avoid morning assembly till flu season is over," the advisory adds.

"Encourage students, parent and staff to take everyday preventive action to stop the spread of germs. It is important that children stay home when sick until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever (100 degrees Fahrenheit) or signs of a fever (chills, feeling very warm, flushed appearance, or sweating), without the use of fever-reducing medicine."

The DHSK also speaks about respiratory etiquettes and use of tissue papers.

"Encourage respiratory etiquette among students and staff through education and the provision of supplies," the advisory states adding, "Teach students and staff to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or their arm. If they use a tissue, they should put the used tissue in a trash can and wash their hands."

"Use general cleaning products that you normally use. Always follow product label directions. Additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is not recommended."

"Separate sick students and staff from others until they can be picked up to go home. When feasible, identity a 'sick room' through which others do not regularly pass. The sick room should be separated from other areas of the school which are used by well students for routine activities. Children with chronic health problems like asthma, diabetes and disorders of the brain or nervous system are at especially high risk of developing serious flu complications."

Director Education Kashmir, Showkat Ahmed Baig downplayed the matter saying there was no harm in public awareness through this advisory. "Our department is not expert on public health, so we take such decisions in accordance with the views of Health authorities," he said.

Despite repeated attempts, Director Health, Dr Salim ur Rehman, could not be contacted as his phone was switched off.

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