Categorized | H1N1 Flu (swine flu), Health

Federal guidelines for H1N1 in schools offer options

MEDIA RELEASE

Updated federal guidelines offer state and local public health and school officials a range of options for responding to 2009 H1N1 influenza in schools, depending on how severe the flu may be in their communities. 

The guidance says officials should balance the risk of flu in their communities with the disruption that school dismissals will cause in education and the wider community.

The school guidance is a part of a broader national framework to respond to novel H1N1 influenza, which includes encouraging people to be vaccinated against the virus and to take other actions to avoid infection. 

The CDC anticipates more illness after the school year starts, because flu typically is transmitted more easily in the fall and winter.

“We’re going to continue to do everything possible to keep our children – and all Americans – healthy and safe this fall,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. “But all Americans also have a part to play. The best way to prevent the spread of flu is vaccination. A seasonal flu vaccine is ready to go, and we should have one for the 2009 H1N1 flu by mid-October.”

The guidelines also recommend schools have plans in place to deal with possible infection. 

For instance, people with flu-like illness should be sent to a room away from other people until they can be sent home. Schools should have plans for continuing the education of students who are at home, through phone calls, homework packets, Internet lessons and other approaches. And schools should have contingency plans to fill important positions such as school nurses.

In addition, students or staff members with flu-like illness (showing symptoms of flu) should stay home at least 24 hours after fever symptoms have ended.

“We can all work to keep our children healthy now by practicing prevention, close monitoring, and using common sense,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. “We hope no schools have to close. But if they do, we need to make sure that children keep learning.”

In addition, schools could begin actively screening students upon arrival and sending ill students home immediately.  If one family member is ill, students should stay home for five days from the day the illness develops, the guidelines say.

“Influenza can be unpredictable, so preparation and planning are key,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “We can’t stop the tide of flu, but we can reduce the number of people who become very ill by preparing well and acting effectively.”

For more information visit www.flu.gov.

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