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Home > Rules & Legislation > Letters from the Commissioner > Informational Letters > Letter 73





TO:              Superintendents of Schools, School Principals and School Nurses

FROM:          Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner

DATE:           February 15, 2007

RE:               New Guidance for Planning for the Possibility of Pandemic Influenza

            Below you will find a letter from Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt regarding new guidance for planning for the possibility of pandemic influenza.  This letter and other supporting information are also available online at: 

Please review this information and share it with staff as appropriate.  Thank you. 

Dear Colleague:

Across the nation, educators are working with partners in local communities to prepare for a possible pandemic flu emergency.  With assistance from federal, state, and local governments, pandemic plans are being prepared and refined that will enable communities to respond in a way that helps to protect students and the general public.

On February 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the availability of an essential new resource for communities, schools, and colleges that offers guidance on community strategies that would delay or reduce the impact of a severe pandemic by limiting the spread of disease until a vaccine is available.  This guidance document, Interim Pre-pandemic Planning Guidance:  Community Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Mitigation in the United States (Community Mitigation Guidance), contains important planning information on a variety of subjects, including:

Community-based strategies.  In the early phase of an influenza pandemic, a pandemic influenza vaccine is unlikely to be available.  Therefore, it will be important to implement a variety of community-based interventions to help reduce the spread of disease.  These interventions include social distancing, such as staying home when sick and avoiding large crowds, prolonged school closings, and planning for alternative work schedules.

A Pandemic Severity Index (PSI).  This will help communities gauge the potential severity and impact of a pandemic and the appropriate actions communities can take to limit the spread of the disease.

Triggers for initiating community interventions.  These are based on the level of threat.

Consequences of community interventions, such as prolonged school closings.  These should be anticipated and addressed in local and state planning efforts.

Specific planning guidance.  This is tailored for businesses and other employers, child care programs, elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, faith-based and community organizations, and individuals and families.

The document is available at  We encourage you to share this link with your staff and colleagues working on emergency response plans for an influenza pandemic. 

By September 2007, the Department of Education plans to offer additional guidance to schools, school districts, and higher education institutions to explain how Department regulations and policy may apply to the just-released Community Mitigation Guidance.  If you have specific regulatory or policy issues that you would like the Department to address, please e-mail them to by February 28, 2007.  We request that any group or association establish one point of contact for submission of comments.  In the meantime, please visit for additional resources, tools, and information on promising practices in crisis planning and emergency response.

The U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services remain committed to supporting you in planning for the possibility of pandemic influenza.  Thank you again for all you are doing to make this essential activity a top priority. 


        /S/                                            /S/
Margaret Spellings                      Mike Leavitt
Secretary of Education                  Secretary of Health and Human Services