GLEN COVE, N.Y. (WPIX)—With the fear of swine flu cases mounting as children prepare to head back to classrooms, one school on Long Island is taking steps to limit exposure to the potentially deadly virus.
Laurence Aronstein, the superintendent of the Glen Cove school district, said all skin-on-skin contact will be discouraged. That means no more handshakes, high fives, or hugs until otherwise noted.
While most parents and students said they appreciate the steps the school is taking, many are worried that it's not enough to prevent the virus from spreading.
"I don't really buy it and the reason is: how are you going to prevent a 5-year-old from hugging their friends?" parent Annette Trip asked PIX News. "Kids just do that. It's a natural instinct."
Nassau University Medical Center Pediatrics Chairman Dr. Michael Frogel agrees that discouraging hugging is likely to have limited success in halting the swine flu. He's concerned the familiar messages of frequent hand-washing and getting students vaccinated may be lost if schools focus on forbidding skin-to-skin contact.
"I think the real emphasis is to diminish the hysteria. To not seek care that's not necessary," said Dr. Frogel. "Let's worry about our regular ill population. Everyone should get vaccinated, everyone should do hand washing."
It was just today that the New York State Education Department released amended guidelines on Swine Flu Prevention. They do not include discouraging skin-to-skin contact in schools. The Nassau County Health Department also stops short of discouraging handshakes and high fives. But Commissioner Maria Torroella Carney is not ruling out more severe restrictions in the future.
"This is a new virus so we don't know how it's going to behave and that's where the concern comes from," said Dr. Carney. "Is this going to change. We can only what's happened over the past few months and it hasn't mutated so that's good news."
Health officials are expecting a rise in the number of swine flu cases when it re-emerges in the fall.
Nationwide, the H1N1 virus could infect as many as half of all Americans, sending nearly 2-million people to the hospital and killing up to 90,000.
In the spring, 47 New Yorkers died from the virus. So far, Nassau and Suffolk counties reportedly have a total of 286 confirmed swine flu cases. Ten people have died after contracting the H1N1 virus - including a pregnant woman.