Flu season and schools

The Center
for Health and Health Care in Schools

School Health Issues: Flu Season and Schools Flu is an unwelcome visitor to many homes and communities this winter. Schools canhelp educate students, their families, and school staff about how to reduce the chanceof getting the flu as well as reduce the likelihood of spreading flu to others. Additionalinformation from the experts is available from the links below.
From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention * Flu symptoms include fever, headache, chills, body aches, tiredness, dry cough, sorethroat, and nasal congestion.
* Flu is spread when a person who has the flu coughs, sneezes, or speaks and sendsthe flu virus into the air. The virus enters the nose, throat or lungs of a person andmultiplies. Flu spreads less frequently when a person touches a surface that has fluviruses on it.
* If you get the flu: rest, drink plenty of liquids, and avoid alcohol and tobacco.
* Antibiotics like penicillin will not cure the flu. The best way to prevent the flu is to get aflu shot. Over-the-counter medications may relieve symptoms of flu. The NationalInstitute for Allergies & Infectious Diseases recommends acetaminophen (Tylenol) forchildren; aspirin or acetaminophen for adults. Decongestants, cough suppressants, anduse of a humidifier can provide symptomatic relief.
* In addition to flu shots, three antiviral medicines are available by prescription that willhelp prevent flu infection: Tamiflu, Flumadine and Symmetrel.
The Center for Health and Health Care in Schools1350 Connecticut Avenue, Suite 505, Washington, DC 20036, ph: 202/466-3396, f: 202/466-3467http://www.healthinschools.org Things to keep in mind for school-age children
* Do NOT give aspirin to a child or teenager who has the flu. To learn why, click herehttp://www.niaid.nih.gov/factsheets/flu.htm * Most antihistamines cause sleepiness. If a child still has a stuffy nose when shereturns to school, parents may want to ask their child's doctor to prescribe a non-sedating antihistamine.
* Encourage children to cover coughs and sneezes, wash hands frequently, and keephands away from eyes, nose and mouth.
* A sick child is advised to stay at home during the first days of illness when symptomsare most severe and the infection is most contagious. Children can return to schoolwhen symptoms are improving and no fever has been detected for 24 hours.
Things for schools to keep in mind
The Iowa and Vermont Departments of Health have posted the following guidance for schools. Adapted by CHHCS for a national audience.
* Any employee, student, teacher, or staff suspected of having the flu should not attendschool.
* Wash hands several times a day using soap and warm water for 15-20 seconds (thisis generally around the time it takes to sing the ABC's). Dry hands with paper towels orautomatic hand dryers if possible. In school, allow regular breaks for the students andteachers to wash hands. Young children should be instructed and assisted to ensureproper hand washing. Restrooms should be checked regularly to ensure that soap andpaper towels are always available.
* The flu can be spread from coughs or sneezes. Make sure tissues are available in allclassrooms. Students and staff should cover their mouths when coughing and use atissue when sneezing or blowing their noses. Tissues should be thrown awayimmediately following proper hand washing (alcohol hand gels may be used in theclassrooms to minimize disruption).
* Schools may be required by their local health departments to report flu absenceswhen they reach a locally determined number. Reporting outbreaks assists in diseasesurveillance and understanding the impact on the community.
The Center for Health and Health Care in Schools1350 Connecticut Avenue, Suite 505, Washington, DC 20036, ph: 202/466-3396, f: 202/466-3467http://www.healthinschools.org * Staff and students (especially those with medical conditions and anyone else whowants to lower their risk of getting the flu) should get the flu shot. Remember, it is nevertoo late in the flu season to be vaccinated. Check with your local health department onavailability of vaccine: www.cdc.gov/other.htm#states * Closure of individual schools in the event of an outbreak has not proven to be aneffective way of stopping the flu but that decision should be made by the appropriateschool officials based on other considerations.
* Schools should be extra-vigilant that ill students be excluded from sports activities,choir or any activities that may involve close contact, since transmission of the flu maybe easier in these situations. All students and staff should avoid sharing glasses, waterbottles, drinks, spoons/forks, etc.
* School buses, because of the enclosed space, may allow for easy spread of the flu.
Tissues should be available on the buses, and students should be encouraged to covernose and mouth while coughing or sneezing. Disinfect commonly handled interiorsurfaces (i.e. door handles, handrails, etc.) between loads of students, if possible.
* In the school, clean commonly used surfaces such as door handles, handrails, eatingsurfaces, desks, etc., frequently with disinfectant. (Bleach solutions or commercialdisinfectants are appropriate.) * Who should get the flu shot? Everyone. (For more information contact your health careprovider or local health department at www.cdc.gov/other.htm#states.) For more information:
How to tell the difference between a cold and flu. [Spanish version available]http://www.niaid.nih.gov/publications/cold/sick.pdf Health Matters: Flu. From the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
http://www.niaid.nih.gov/factsheets/flu.htm Influenza: The Disease. From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/flu/fluinfo.htm The Center for Health and Health Care in Schools1350 Connecticut Avenue, Suite 505, Washington, DC 20036, ph: 202/466-3396, f: 202/466-3467http://www.healthinschools.org

Source: http://w3.mesd.k12.or.us/shs/main/disease/influenza.pdf

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