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Preventing the Spread of Influenza in School Settings

Guidance for Administrators, Principals, and Other Staff

Symptoms

Symptoms of flu include fever (usually high), headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and muscle aches. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea also can occur, and are much more common among children than adults.

Spread of the Flu

The main way that flu is spread is from person to person through coughs and sneezes. This can happen when droplets from the cough or sneeze of an infected person travel through the air and reach the mouth or nose of people nearby. Sometimes flu can be spread when a person touches droplets, nose drainage or saliva from an infected person, or a soiled object, and then touches one’s own (or someone else’s) nose or mouth before washing hands.

Encourage influenza vaccination for children with underlying health conditions.

Vaccination against the flu each fall remains the primary way to prevent this disease. Vaccination, along with other measures, also may help to decrease the spread of influenza among children and school personal. High risk children with underlying health conditions should seek vaccination this year. When vaccine supplies are adequate, all school age children should seeking vaccination against the flu. Remember it is never to late too late in the flu season to be vaccinated.

Remind children, teachers and staff to wash their hands or use alcohol-based hand rubs, and make sure that supplies are available.

  • Encourage teachers and children to use soap and water to wash hands when hands are visibly soiled, or an alcohol-based hand rub when soap and water are not available and hands are not visibly soiled.
  • Wash hands before meals, after wiping the nose or mouth, after touching objects such as tissues or surfaces soiled with saliva or nose drainage, and after using the restroom.
  • Wash hands for 15-20 seconds (long enough for children to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice).
  • Oversee the use of alcohol-based hand rubs by children and avoid using these on the sensitive skin. Rub hands thoroughly until the alcohol has dried when using alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Ensure that restroom and classroom sinks are supplied with both hot and cold running water and are stocked with hand soap, paper towels or working hand dryers. Restrooms should be checked regularly to ensure that soap and paper towels are always available.

Keep the school environment clean and make sure that supplies are available.

  • Clean frequently touched surfaces, desks, computer keyboards, head phones, gym equipment, hand rails, door knobs and commonly shared items at least daily and when visibly soiled.
  • Use an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered sanitizer labeled for activity against bacteria and viruses, or EPA-registered chlorine bleach/hypochlorite solution. Always follow label instructions when using any EPA registered sanitizers. If chlorine bleach is used, mix table spoon chlorine bleach with 1 gallon of cool water.
  • Keep sanitizers out of the reach of children.

Remind children, teachers and staff to cover their noses and mouths when sneezing or coughing.

  • Advise children and teachers to cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when sneezing or coughing, and to put their used tissue immediately in a waste basket.
  • Make sure that tissues are available in all classrooms, offices, and common areas such as reading and computer rooms, and where meals are provided.
  • Encourage children to wash their hands or use an alcohol-based hand rub as if they have sneezed, coughed on their hands or blown their nose.

Observe all children for symptoms of respiratory illness. Children, teachers and staff suspected of having flu should not attend school.

  • Observe closely children for symptoms of respiratory illness. Notify the parent if a child develops a fever (100°F. or higher under the arm, 101°F. orally, or 102°F. rectally) and chills, cough, sore throat, headache, or muscle aches. Send the child home and advise the parent to contact the child’s doctor.
  • Have parents of sick children to keep the children home until the children have been without fever for 24 hours, to prevent spreading illness to others.
  • Do NOT give aspirin to a child or teenager who has the flu.

Be extra-vigilant for sports activities, choir or other activities that may involve close contact.

  • Transmission of flu may be easier in these situations. Exclude ill students, teachers, coaches and other school personnel from these activities.
  • Avoid sharing glasses, water bottles, drinks, and table ware.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces, gym mats, drinking fountains, weight lifting benches, hand rails, door knobs and commonly shared items after each use.
  • Use an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered sanitizer labeled for activity against bacteria and viruses, or EPA-registered chlorine bleach/hypochlorite solution. Always follow label instructions when using any EPA registered sanitizers. If chlorine bleach is used, mix table spoon chlorine bleach with 1 gallon of cool water.

Monitor school bus use.

School buses, because of the enclosed space, may allow for easy spread of the flu. Tissues should be available on the buses, and children should be encouraged to cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when sneezing or coughing. Disinfect commonly handled interior surfaces such as door handles, hand rails, and seats between loads of children.

Adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov/flu), Iowa and Vermont Departments of Health.

Larimer County Department of Health & Environment, 1525 Blue Spruce Dr., Ft. Collins, Colorado 80524 970-498-6775

Background Image: Loveland Bike Trail by Sharon Veit. All rights reserved.