CDC: Keep Schools Open if Swine Flu Hits
New Guidelines Also Say Sick Kids Can Go Back to School 24 Hours After Fever Goes Away
New Swine Flu Rules for Schools
If schools don't close during a wave of pandemic swine flu, what should they do? Here's the CDC's advice.
If swine flu severity stays the same as it was last spring:
Stay home when sick. If you've had the flu, don't go back to school until 24 hours after your fever goes away.
Separate ill students and staff. Students and staff who appear ill should be sent to a room separate from others until they can be sent home. They should wear surgical masks if possible; those that care for them should wear masks, too.
Wash hands, observe cough/sneeze etiquette. Frequent and thorough hand washing will be more important than ever. So will covering each cough or sneeze with a disposable tissue (or shirtsleeve or elbow if tissues aren't available).
Routine cleaning. School staff should clean areas that students and staff touch often. Use normal cleaners; bleach and special cleansers aren't necessary.
Early treatment of at-risk students and staff. People at high risk of severe swine flu disease -- for example, those who are pregnant, have asthma or diabetes, neuromuscular diseases, or immune deficiency -- should see a health provider as soon as they become ill. Early antiviral treatment is very important for them.
If swine flu becomes more severe:
Active screening. Students and staff should be checked for fever and other flu symptoms every morning; those with these symptoms should be sent home. Throughout the day, students and staff should be on the lookout for people who appear ill.
High-risk students/staff should stay home. Students and staff with conditions that put them at high risk of severe flu disease -- such as pregnancy, chronic asthma, or heart disease -- should stay home from school "when a lot of flu is circulating in the community." Schools should immediately start planning for the continued education of such students.
Students with ill family members should stay home. Students should stay home for five days starting from the first day their household member got sick. This is the time they are most likely to get sick themselves.
If sick, stay home longer. Stay home for at least seven days even if you feel better before then. If you still feel ill after seven days, stay home for 24 hours after your symptoms finally go away.
Consider school closure. If it's deemed necessary to close a school, the school should remain closed for five to seven calendar days and then consider whether to reopen.
A "communication toolkit for schools" is available for download from the CDC web site at http://flu.gov/plan/school/toolkit.html.
The CDC will soon be issuing specific guidance for preschools. Guidance for colleges and universities is scheduled for release later in the month.