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Health Advisories

VERMONT DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH     

INFLUENZA PREVENTION & CONTROL MEASURES FOR K-12 SCHOOLS

 

Though widespread influenza activity occurs each year, influenza seasons are unpredictable. In the US, the influenza season typically occurs between October and May. The best way to prevent infection is to get a yearly influenza vaccine. Influenza spreads easily between individuals who spend a lot of time in close proximity to others such as a school setting.

If you have any questions about flu, flu vaccines, flu surveillance, or flu outbreaks contact the Vermont Department of Health at 802-863-7240.

 

Preventive Measures

 

·      Encourage students, parents, and staff to get a yearly influenza vaccine. See CDC Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine for more information about the vaccine.

o   Seasonal flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older unless they have a specific contraindication to flu vaccine.

o   CDC has recommendations on who should and should not get vaccinated.

o   Flu vaccinations should begin by the end of October, but as long as flu virus is circulating anyone who has not received the vaccine should be encouraged to get it.

·      Consider sending out a letter to parents at the beginning of the flu season encouraging vaccination and providing resources on how families can stay healthy.

·      Teach everyone to cover their coughs and sneezes with a tissue or their bent arm.

o   CDC has Cover Your Cough fliers available for printing.

·      Frequent handwashing.

o   CDC has information on how handwashing can help stop the spread of disease.

·      Encourage staff and students to stay home if they are feeling sick and to stay home until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever or sign of a fever (chills, feeling very warm, flushed appearance, or sweating) without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.

·      Perform routine surface cleaning, see CDC information on How to Clean and Disinfect Schools to Help Slow the Spread of Flu.

 

Influenza-like Illness Definition

 

Fever (measured temperature of 100ºF or greater) and cough and/or sore throat

 

Outbreak definition

 

Increased absenteeism throughout the school in association with ILI

OR

When multiple students from the same classroom are absent or sent home on any given day with ILI

(There were a lot of ways that places defined an outbreak in a school/congregate setting, I wanted to keep it fairly broad.

Minnesota states that schools should report to the health department when 5% or more of the total school enrollment are absent or sent home with ILI)

 

Outbreak Management

 

·      Call the Vermont Department of Health (VDH) 24/7 (800-640-4371 or 802-863-7240) to report a suspected outbreak and for guidance on control measures. Provide VDH with as much of the following information as you can:

o   How many staff and students are symptomatic

o   How many staff and students are laboratory confirmed

o   What kind of symptoms people are experiencing

o   When symptoms were first reported

o   Any hospitalizations

o   How many staff and students have received the flu vaccine this year

o   What actions the school is taking to reduce the spread

·      Use a linelist and keep track of symptomatic individuals

·      Review CDC Guidance for School Administrators to Help Reduce the Spread of Seasonal Influenza in K-12 Schools.

·      Consider sending a letter home to parents reminding them that it is flu season, giving them ways to stay healthy, and encouraging them to have their children stay home if they are sick.

o   VDH can provide a template letter or help you create a letter to send out.

·      Encourage any unvaccinated staff to get vaccinated.

·      Encourage regular environmental cleaning of objects that are often touched such as desks, countertops, doorknobs, computer keyboards, faucet handles, and phones.

o   See CDC guidance on How to Clean and Disinfect Schools to Help Slow the Spread of Flu.

o   Flu viruses are fragile, cleaning with soap and water can help remove and kill them.

o   Flu virus can live and potentially infect a person for 2 – 8 hours after being deposited on a surface. Specialized sanitizing processes and closing the school for intense cleaning is not recommended.

·      Post hand hygiene signs around the school.

o   Find poster on the CDC Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives website.

·      Discourage children from sharing water bottles or drinks.

·      Consider cancelling group activities.

·      Provide classrooms with tissues and no-touch trashcans.

·      Students who develop flu-like symptoms should be sent home. Symptoms of the flu can include:

o   Fever

o   Cough

o   Sore throat

o   Runny of stuffy nose

o   Body aches

o   Chills

o   Tiredness

o   Sometimes diarrhea and vomiting

 

 

FAQ

 

Do schools need to provide antibacterial soap?

No, regular soap is effective.

 

Should students with ILI be excluded from school?

Yes, both students and staff should go home if they become sick during the day and stay home until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever or sign of a fever (chills, feeling very warm, flushed appearance, or sweating) without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.

 

Should schools close due to flu?

The Health Department does not recommend that schools close due to outbreaks of ILI. A school may decide to close if the number of absences prevent normal school functioning.

 

When should school contact the Health Department?

When there is an increased number of students throughout the school absent or sent home with ILI or when multiple students within one classroom are absent or sent home with ILI on a given day.

 

 

Resources

 

·      VDH  Influenza website

o    http://healthvermont.gov/disease-control/flu

·      VDH Flu Activity and Surveillance

o   http://healthvermont.gov/immunizations-infectious-disease/influenza/flu-activity-and-surveillance

o   Each week during the flu season a weekly surveillance report is posted on this site

·      VDH Immunization information for K-12 school nurses and administrators

o   http://healthvermont.gov/immunizations-infectious-disease/immunization/k-12-school-nurses-and-administrators

·      VDH flu posters

o   http://healthvermont.gov/news-information-resources/infographics-print-resources/posters-flyers-postcards