For 40 years Sesame Street has been teaching children their letters and numbers, but this year the residents of the famed street are teaching kids a new lesson: how to prevent the spread of the H1N1 flu virus, better known as swine flu.
The White House, the Homeland Security Department, the Health and Human Services Department and the Education Department have teamed with the makers of Sesame Street to produce four public service announcements to teach children and families healthy habits that will prevent the spread of the potentially deadly virus. The PSAs can be viewed at www.flu.gov.
The 20-second spots feature Gordon and Elmo talking about topics as how to wash your hands and how to sneeze into your elbow.
Of the spots, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said:
Younger children and their parents are some of the people most at risk from the new H1N1 flu virus and with schools starting back up again and the weather starting to get colder, we need to do everything we can to get these important messages about how to prevent the spread of the flu out there.â€
This FedLine bloggerâ€™s Sesame Street experience predates Elmo, but I understand heâ€™s pretty popular with the preschool set, so perhaps this will be an effective campaign. But to add authority, I think the spots should have included a visit from the one and only Dr. Grover.
National Preparedness Month starts next week. This year, in addition to stressing the necessary preparations for natural disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires, the focus will be on a new challenge: pandemic flu.
The H1N1 virus (the illness formerly known as swine flu) is expected to come back strong in the fall and agencies have to be prepared to continue operating in the event federal employees become infected, said Josh Sawislak, acting chief of the General Services Administrationâ€™s Office of Emergency Response and Recovery.
For GSA, pandemic preparation is more than making sure federal agencies have enough hand sanitizer to go around, Sawislak said. With a virus that spreads as quickly as H1N1, the agency will also have to ensure it quickly notifies tenants of federally owned and leased space when a fellow fed falls ill with H1N1, while protecting the privacy of the individual, he said.
Preparedness is also about making sure employees are up-to-date on their telework policies and training in case employees need to be quarantined or offices need to close to prevent the spread of the virus, Sawislak said in an interview. GSA sets telework policy for the government and runs telework centers for federal agencies.
â€œItâ€™s important to be equipped and trained to do it and to have other people know how to work with [teleworkers] when theyâ€™re not in the office,â€ Sawislak said.
Sawislak and others will be dispensing this advice, along with personal and professional preparedness tips for pandemic flu and other emergencies, at training events throughout September.
â€œEmbrace the boy scout motto and work hard to â€˜be prepared,â€™â€ Sawislak said.
For more information on disaster and flu preparedness for your home and family, visit Ready.gov.