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ADVANCE Perspective: Respiratory Views

Government Releases H1N1 Flu School Closure Guidelines

Published August 7, 2009 5:39 PM by test test

While parents are out buying backpacks and school supplies, the government began preparing for back-to-school season today by releasing national guidelines to prevent the spread of H1N1 swine flu and to curtail unnecessary school flu closures.

"Influenza can be unpredictable, so preparation and planning are key," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH at a news conference today. "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."

See the news conference here.

The guidance for kindergarten through high school students included many of the normal recommendations including educating students and staff to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when they cough and sneeze, practicing good hand hygiene, and cleaning surfaces and items that have frequent hand contact.

Among the new guidance:

  • Advise sick students, teachers, and staff to stay home until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever or signs of a fever (without the use of fever-reducing medications.)
  • Move students, teachers, and staff to a separate room if they become sick at school.
  • Limit the number of staff who care for a sick person and provide a surgical mask for each caregiver.
  • Encourage early medical evaluation for sick students and staff.
  • Stay in regular communication with local public health officials.

In the case of more severe flu conditions, the guidelines recommend that schools consider

  • Advising sick students and staff to stay home for at least 7 days, even if they feel better sooner.
  • Allowing those who are pregnant, have asthma, diabetes, or other conditions that put them at higher risk for complications to stay home. 
  • Conducting active fever and symptoms screenings upon arrival at school. Any sick person should be separated from others, offered a surgical mask, and sent home.
  • Finding ways to increase the distance between people such as rotating teachers between classroom instead of students, moving desks further apart, and postponing school trips.

Additional guidance for pre-kindergarten and pre-school students is expected shortly. Guidance for higher education institutions and workplaces should be released by Aug. 23.

While vaccines against H1N1 are not yet available, the CDC last week identified key populations who should receive the vaccine:

  • Pregnant women
  • People who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age
  • Health care and emergency services people
  • Persons between the ages of 6 months through 24 years of age
  • People between age 24 through 64 who are at high risk of the flu because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.

For continuing coverage of H1N1, visit our swine flu resource center.

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