Last Updated on August 27, 2009 by Paulette Brown-Hinds
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell today urged everyone to remember safety procedures when students return to school this fall to prevent and mitigate the spread of H1N1 and other influenza viruses.
“The excitement about returning to school and seeing old friends could cause us to let our guard down about preventing the spread of the flu virus,” said O’Connell. “I urge parents, students, and school officials to remain vigilant and review the updated safety protocols established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Education.”
O’Connell is offering local education agencies a sample letter they may send home to parents and guardians about the updated guidelines issued earlier in August. The guidelines include the following key recommendations: Students and staff with flu-like illness should stay home for at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever, or signs of a fever, without the use of fever reducing medicines.
Students and staff who appear to have flu-like illness should be sent to a room separate from others until they can be sent home.
If possible, the ill person should wear a surgical mask to prevent coughing or sneezing on others. A school nurse or other staff person caring for the student should use appropriate personal protective equipment.
Students and staff should wash hands frequently with soap and water when possible, and always cover noses and mouths with a tissue, shirt sleeve, or elbow when coughing or sneezing. If soap and water is not available, alcohol-based hand sanitizers should be available for student and staff use.
School staff should routinely clean areas that students and staff touch often with the cleaners they typically use. Cleansers with bleach and other non-detergent-based cleaners are not necessary.
People experiencing severe flu symptoms, especially those who are at high risk for complications if they become ill with an influenza-like illness should speak with their health care provider as soon as possible.
People at high risk include those who are pregnant, have asthma or diabetes, have compromised immune systems, or have neuromuscular diseases.
Although there are not many schools where all or most students are at high risk, a community might decide to dismiss a school to better protect these students.
School officials should work closely and directly with their local and state public health officials when deciding whether or not to selectively dismiss a school or schools with large populations of high risk students.
To assist schools in preventing the spread of viruses, the California Department of Education offers further guidance, pandemic flu planning checklists, and resources on flu prevention in multiple languages at http://www.cde.ca.gov/159979.
Schools, parents, and any member of the public may also download a free “Keep Our Schools Healthy” information toolkit that contains posters on how to prevent the spread of any germs and viruses at http://www.cde.ca.gov/148645. The sample letter to parents and guardians is at http://www.cde.ca.gov/159850 . The U.S. Department of Education offers schools a communications toolkit athttp://www.flu.gov/plan/schoo l/toolkit.html. For more detailed school guidance, please visithttp:// www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/gu idance/exclusion.htm.