Monday, November 9, 2009

H1N1 Update/Upset

Before the flu outbreak, if a kid put his head down in my class, I would inquire as to whether he was sick or just sleepy. If sleepy, I would make him alert; if sick, I would leave him alone, and tell the co-teacher he says he's sick.

However, the "new flu" has been identified in 80-odd Young-il students as of this morning--my sixth period class was missing 11: six confirmed and five suspected cases. In two weeks, we've gone from four cases to over 6% of the student body!

With those numbers, better safe than sorry, I say. And indeed, with Korea's tendency toward paranoia and overreaction, so you'd think they'd say, too. Which is why I was both surprised and upset by what happened during fourth period today.

A kid with his head down said he felt sick. I alerted Mr Hur, who talked to him a bit about his symptoms, then sent him to the school nurse. He had a headache, general misery and a fever.

Some time later, I notice that the kid has returned to the classroom! Mr Hur investigates, to find out the nurse was unable to confirm the flu--of course--but had told him to go to the hospital (hospitals and clinics are the Korean equivalent of "going to the doctor"). The boy says he did not want to miss school, so he came back to class. Fortunately class was almost over. In my ensuing conversation with Hur and Miss Lee, I learned that they don't think government policy allows the school to send kids home even if the school nurse directs that they go to the hospital.

Well, I hit the roof! Millions of Koreans spent last summer protesting American "crazy cow" that never hurt anyone, but you let kids presumed infectious with a known killer flu spread the microbe in classrooms packed with 30-odd other students.

I think they're wrong about the policy--the Korean Medical Association wants to close schools for a few weeks, and some have done so--so I am thinking of arranging to discuss this with Principal Jun. I have never taken a flu shot, I have never worried about my own health situation regarding the flu, etc., but this business of ignoring standard protocols for it (ANY source of information points out that you must stay home if sick) does make me worry!

Of course, we are coming into the time of Korea's main testing frenzy! Thursday is the nationwide college entrance examination, taken by "third graders" everywhere. Airplanes will be re-routed, businesses will open later than usual, vomit-splattered soju-drunks will hide in alleyways rather than splay themselves on park benches, all in order to assist the seniors in their quest for the SKY! (Seoul National, Korea University, Yonsei)

This will be followed next Tuesday by the national practice exam for content area competence among HS first and second graders. So students feel a special burden to come to class, even if they put their heads down and don't learn a damn thing! Sure, there are kids that need an injection of Tamiflu, but the educational system needs an injection of common sense.


Anonymous said...

If the Korean Association of Doctors told all of the Koreans that this flu was an American flu that was trying to put the Korean flu out of business we would see a completely different reaction.

Foreigner Joy said...

Well said and to the point.

Anonymous said...

>we would see a completely different reaction.

Funny some expats love to portray us as just a bunch of buttons to be pushed. I wonder if it has something to do with their position as sojourners?

-A Seoulite