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Important Message about H1N1, flu, and schools
INFORMATIONAL LETTER NO: 22
TO: Superintendents of Schools
This letter is intended to clarify the roles of the Maine Department of Education (Maine DOE) and the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention (Maine CDC) in matters related to schools and public health – in particular, seasonal flu, H1N1, school-based vaccinations, and, shortly, Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), as well.
Please know that the Maine DOE has deferred, and will continue to defer, to the Maine CDC on ALL public health matters. We are in contact with the Maine CDC every day – even on weekends – and are fully aware of each other’s activities and communications when it comes to schools. In all cases, the Maine DOE shares information that has come from or been reviewed and approved by the Maine CDC, which in turn receives much of its information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The Maine DOE has resources to offer schools, including a school nurse consultant on staff, but is not the agency with expertise in public health and we do not make public health recommendations on our own.
We strongly encourage schools with public health questions to contact the Maine CDC. The agency has established an 888 number specifically for school personnel and providers involved in school-based vaccination clinics. The number is (888) 257-0990. The line is staffed by Maine CDC weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nancy Dube, our nurse consultant, is in constant contact with the Maine CDC to provide school-specific information and perspective. School nurses may continue to reach Nancy directly, as well.
We strongly encourage superintendents and other key administrators to involve your school nurses in all conversations and planning around these public health matters in the schools. They are your on-site resources for health-related information, and are receiving frequent, detailed communications from both Nancy Dube, our school nurse consultant, and from the Maine CDC through its Health Alert Network.
There has been a lot of information about H1N1, seasonal flu, vaccination clinics and protocols flowing to schools from varied sources, including community providers, some of whom are teaming up with schools to conduct the vaccination clinics. The guidance, primarily from Maine CDC, U.S. CDC, and the U.S. Department of Education, evolves frequently and keeping up with it is a challenge for all of us. It is, unfortunately, part of the nature of the flu: information changes depending on the conditions on the ground and how the flu spreads.
At the Maine DOE, our role is to share information with schools that we receive and gather from other sources, with a focus on sharing the most important pieces of school-related information to help reduce the information overload. This includes guidance from Maine CDC (and U.S. CDC) as well as guidance on possible school closures from the U.S. Department of Education. We also have established an H1N1 website (see resources below) with some of the most crucial pieces of information for schools, as well as a school-focused Q&A section. We strongly encourage schools – especially school nurses – to frequently visit the Maine CDC website (see resources below) for the most complete and up-to-date public health advisories and guidance.
With so much information and such frequent updates, it is possible that an occasional communication will contain information at odds with another communication, though we are working very hard not to allow that to happen. If you hear of inconsistent messages or conflicting information, it is important that you contact us immediately with SPECIFIC information about what the conflicting information is and where it was provided so that we can correct it. Thank you for all that you can do to help us share accurate and consistent information as quickly as possible with our schools.
Finally, I want to thank you for your hard work and attention to the H1N1 and other public health matters that are requiring the involvement of our schools. These are challenging issues. I can tell you that Maine has been at the forefront of preparedness on these issues due to: the leadership of Dr. Dora Mills and the Maine CDC; the collaboration among multiple agencies, including the Maine CDC, Maine DOE, Maine Emergency Management Agency, the Governor’s Office and many others; and the vigilance and cooperation of schools, colleges, community groups and others. We cannot stop H1N1 from entering our schools or communities, but we can slow its spread and reduce its impact (and already have). I thank you for your very meaningful part in making that happen.
Maine Center for Disease Control – this should be the primary source for all public health guidance, including information about school-based vaccination clinics
Maine Department of Education – provides key information for superintendents and other school personnel.
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