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H1N1 (“Swine Flu”) Updated Guidance and Information
INFORMATIONAL LETTER: 99
This update includes important information about:
U.S. CDC Guidelines
The situation and guidance with the H1N1 flu have evolved significantly over the past two days as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC) has determined the severity of the flu is less than originally anticipated.
As you have already noted in the press release forwarded to you Tuesday evening, the U.S. CDC no longer recommends that schools with probable cases of H1N1 influenza be closed. Instead, it recommends a focus on “keeping all student, faculty and staff with symptoms of influenza out of schools and childcare facilities during their period of illness and recuperation, when they are potentially infectious to others.”
You may read the U.S. CDC guidelines at: www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/K12dismissal.htm PLEASE NOTE that guidance from the US CDC and other sources is evolving rapidly. Check the U.S. CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/ ) and Maine CDC (www.mainepublichhealth.gov ) websites often for updates.
Protocol for School Notification
Now that school closures are no longer the recommended course of action, notification to schools will revert to the standard procedures in place for any flu outbreak. Maine CDC or an authorized local public health agency will contact the school where a student or staff member has been found to have the H1N1 flu. As always, protection of the individual’s identity is required, and schools should provide no information about the individual while still informing parents that an individual in the school has been found to be a probable case of H1N1.
A sample letter that can be sent home to parents in the event of an H1N1 case at a school is now posted on our H1N1 flu website on the superintendents’ page: http://www.maine.gov/education/h1n1/supt . Look under “Communicating with Parents.”
It is not necessary to make adjustments to school activities and normal functioning due to a reported case of H1N1. There are also no advisories against traveling to any locations in the U.S. or outside the U.S. Still, it is up to local schools, in consultation with the school nurse, local public health officials, and other community resources, to make determinations about activities and trips. And schools should continue to increase vigilance regarding industrial hygiene and cleaning. Guidance was posted on our website over the weekend on heightened cleaning practices: http://www.maine.gov/education/h1n1/supt .
As is always the case, if high staff and/or student absenteeism interferes with the school’s ability to function, school closure should be considered in consultation with local school and health officials.
New Resources on the Department H1N1 Website
In addition to the sample letter to parents, we have also linked all the recent press releases from the Joint Information Center (Governor’s H1N1 Response Team), and the U.S. CDC guidance and have added a number of new Q&As. Be sure to look on both the main Department of Education H1N1 page and the superintendents’ page for resources and information. (The superintendents’ page is now linked publicly. If you lose this address, simply go to the Department home page, click on H1N1 update, and then on “Resources for Superintendents and Heads of Schools”.
Distribution of These Updates
In an effort to distribute these updates quickly and directly to superintendents, we have sent some of them directly to superintendent email addresses and not via the traditional Informational/Administrative Letter listserve. Almost all of you have provided emergency contact information, including email addresses, for yourselves and a back-up person and we have used those, along with previous email address lists, to reach you. This letter and subsequent letters will go via the traditional listserve. At times, we may use the direct email address list again for quick distribution. Please note that we now have the ability to accept multiple email addresses from the same SAU to receive the listserve. If you wish to add email addresses to the listserve, please visit:
For facts about influenza, and more information about H1N1 flu and schools:
The Maine CDC continues to test possible cases of H1N1. Three new cases were identified on Wednesday. Totals as of Wednesday, May 6, are as follows: five in York County (four adults, one child); three adults in Kennebec County; and one child each in Cumberland County and Penobscot County. Four of the five York County cases have been confirmed by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and half of the 10 people in Maine with H1N1 have a history of travel.
The recent changes to the guidance and apparent downgrading of the threat are great news. However, we are not out of the woods. Students will continue to contract this flu. As recommended by the U.S. CDC and Dr. Dora Anne Mills, Director of the Maine CDC, we must now focus on family and staff: we should encourage them to self-monitor for symptoms and, if exhibited, to exclude themselves from school or work.
We all have a responsibility to ourselves and each other and, in fact, we are the strongest tools in the response to the flu and in preventing its spread. We need to be vigilant about the things we know we can do to help prevent the spread: coughing and sneezing into our sleeves or a tissue; washing hands frequently; and staying home if we are sick.
We continue to be a resource for you as this flu situation continues to evolve. Please do not hesitate to contact me, Nancy Dube, our school nurse consultant, or David Connerty-Marin, director of communications, if we can assist in any way. You have received our direct and cell phone numbers in previous emails. If you need those again, please contact David and he will provide them to you again.
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