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
Some communities may, however, opt for "reactive dismissals," closing schools:
- If there is excessive absenteeism among students or staff.
- If large numbers of kids are visiting the school health office or being sent home during the day.
- If the school isn't able to keep sick people out.
- For other reasons that "decrease the ability to maintain school functioning."
- Closed schools should also cancel school-related mass gatherings.
And if swine flu surveillance indicates that a more severe wave of flu is about to hit, communities should consider "preemptive dismissals." In this case, closed schools are also urged to cancel all school-related gatherings such as sporting events, dances, performances, rallies, and commencements.
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.