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Helping Kids Protect Themselves From Infections

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

School children across England and Europe can now learn about protecting themselves from swine flu and other infections, following today's launch of an education programme and interactive website by the Health Protection Agency (HPA).

e-Bug is made up of educational activities for primary and secondary school-age children, complemented by online games, on microbes, hygiene, antibiotic use and vaccines. The programme features age-appropriate animated characters and cartoon microbes; and lesson plans and materials for teachers. Topics include hygiene measures to stop the spread of swine flu and other respiratory infections.

The programme also educates children - our future generation of antibiotic users - on the importance of the prudent use of antibiotics. Antibiotics are currently the most common medicines given to children, and increased antibiotic use is linked to increased resistance.

e-Bug was developed by a team of healthcare experts at the HPA's Primary Care Unit, Gloucester, after research in English and European schools found teaching about antibiotics and resistance varied widely. This research also found that the majority of hand hygiene campaigns were targeted towards adults, with few school-based resources available for children.

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Eighteen European countries assisted the HPA with the development of e-Bug: ten are immediately implementing e-Bug as part of the junior and senior school curriculum, or making it available to schools; and eight plan to roll it out in the future. e-Bug will be available as a resource for all English junior and secondary schools from this month.

The HPA's Dr Cliodna McNulty, who led on the development of e-Bug, said:

"With the current swine flu epidemic as well as seasonal flu, we have seen how children are not only more susceptible to acquiring viruses, but are also more infectious to others. Since many swine flu cases have been centred around school outbreaks, the implementation of e-Bug in schools this autumn is particularly timely.

"e-Bug provides practical information on these topics in a fun, hands-on way; which means children are more likely to retain and use what they learn."

The HPA's Chairman, Dr David Heymann, said: "A key role of the HPA is to provide advice and information on issues of public health to specific audiences, so I'm delighted that one of our units has led on the development of this interactive tool for schools.

"I am also very pleased that we have been able to collaborate with schools in so many EU countries in developing e-Bug. Working across national boundaries is crucial if we are to tackle pressing global health issues, such as the spread of swine flu and antibiotic resistance, so I see this as a really positive project."