The only way I will willingly wear a mask to teach.
Well, word on the street is that SMOE is talking about the possiblity of shutting down all the schools in Seoul for a week because H1N1 is kind of exploding here. I have seen a marked increase in the number of students wearing masks, and the amount of hand sanitizer popping up in classrooms. We're also back to daily temperature checks of the kids.
Today at lunch one of my coworkers, who doesn't speak a whole lot of English said "I want you to be very careful of your health. With the flu. Many students are having it. I live near Aju (where I work afterschool) and they have many many students having it. I think you should get masks."
And this was after I hadn't been feeling too super all day. Thanks! (Note: I went and had my temperatue taken at the nurses office after this convo and I was exactly average. Oh my god, I am going to submit my story to MLIA. LOOK FOR IT!)
Anyway, so I started looking online to see if I could get any more info and found some crazy stats.
"As of Friday, a total of 10,664 students were either confirmed or suspected of H1N1 virus infection in 1,123 primary, middle and high schools in Seoul. Some 103 schools have partially or completely closed down for the time being in Seoul alone, including 12 kindergartens, 55 primary schools, 21 middle schools, 14 high schools and one special education school." (source)
"According to the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, the total number of students infected with the new flu virus dramatically increased from 3,800 on October 1st to nearly 9,400 as of October 22nd. Notably, the figure surged 66% in a week as it stood at about 5,600 on October 15th. Compared to the beginning of the month, the number of schools with confirmed cases also jumped significantly from 754 to 1,089." (source)
"The accumulated number of students who caught the disease jumped from 3,845 on the first day of this month to 9,378 as of Thursday." (source)
This is another interesting article about the effect that H1N1 is having on high school studens who are trying to prepare for the Korean SAT that is administered in mid-November. I am sure these kids being stressed to the brink of disaster, in addition to going to school an academy nearly around the clock, is not doing much to help their immunity.
And this article talks about how the Korean Medical Association is urging public schools to shut down for 2-3 weeks to curb the spread of swine flu.
According to articles like this, the government is really cracking down on these kids who spread "rumors" about the possible negative effects of the vaccine. While I'm ALL FOR vaccines, I can't help but wonder if the police officer making the threats to would-be-rumor-spreaders has seen the INSANE videos of that Redskins cheerleader who developed hypotonia after getting a regular flu shot. If you haven't seen this video, check it out. It is totally bizarre, and the chances of it happening are incredibly slim, but you can't ever say something like this has NO negative side effects.
Some websites are talking about vaccines for students as early as November, but it is looking like I'll have to hold out unil January, according to this article.
If they send us home for a week, it is looking likely that we will have to make it up during winter break. As Dan, one of my favorite after school kids said after looking up the word on his phone "It will be subtracted." Dan's little sister likely has H1N1 and he was rocking a mask today. Sinead, another teacher at after school, works at one of the poorer schools in Seoul. They were told that they had a handful of confirmed cases, but most likely many more who had it but were unconfirmed because the H1N1 test cost too much.
My mom said what is on everyone's mind: "You picked a crappy year to go there."
But, as I said to her, I never travel abroad half assed. Semester at Sea threw us for a loop on Wave Day. Swine Flu can bring it on.