by Kristin Casale
Stow -- School officials say they hope a pandemic flu does not come to the area, but that it is important to be prepared for such an event if it happens.
As part of its planning efforts, the Stow-Munroe Falls School District hosted a community meeting Monday at Indian Trail Elementary designed to raise awareness about such an illness.
Approximately 15 people, including residents and school officials, were in attendance.
Kristi Kato, the Summit County Health District's pandemic influenza preparedness coordinator, defined a pandemic flu as an illness that causes a global outbreak.
"It affects everyone," she said, stating such an illness spreads like a common cold or a seasonal flu. An increase in population and world travel has contributed to a greater risk of the spread of a pandemic flu, said Kato.
Pandemic illnesses normally last 18 months, so she said it is important to avoid infection by keeping hand sanitizer, extra tissues and trash receptacles on hand.
"It's more than just pandemic flu [preparedness]," said Kato. "It's general emergency response."
District Superintendent Dr. Russell Jones said the district currently is working on a pandemic response plan that would ensure school officials are prepared for an outbreak of a serious illness.
"The main goal is to continue with the educational services we provide," he said.
The response plan is set to be complete sometime in the spring, said Jones.
Board of Education President John Pribonic said he believes Monday's meeting was informative.
"This meeting was not meant to alarm anyone or scare anyone," he said. "We feel it's our responsibility to educate the public."
Indian Trail Parent-Teacher Association Vice President Tammy Simpson agreed.
"The [district] is taking the special interest to keep the kids safe," she said.