School administrators and school nurses:
The following notice is from Mary Mayhew, Commissioner, Maine Department of Health and Human Services; and Stephen Bowen, Commissioner, Maine Department of Education.
Each year, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) conducts influenza surveillance to track and prevent the spread of influenza and to monitor the specific influenza viruses circulating in the State.
Already this season influenza-like illness (ILI) has resulted in substantial absenteeism in schools, with 17 schools reporting ILI outbreaks since September 2012.
What can Maine schools do to prevent and control influenza?
- Report outbreaks: Report outbreaks of any illness, defined as student absenteeism rates >15%, immediately to Maine CDC. Submit > 15% absenteeism reports through the Department of Education MEDMS application (for more information, see www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/infectious-disease/epi/influenza/maineflu/educators.shtml). Field epidemiologists are available to provide consultation on infection control. Reports may also be called to 1-800-821-5821.
- Promote vaccination among students and staff: It is not too late to schedule a school located vaccine clinic (SLVC). For more information about SLVC’s please contact Ruth Lawson-Stopps at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Promote health among students and staff: Encourage students, parents, teachers and staff to be aware of their health and to identify early if they have influenza-like illness (defined as fever of 100 degrees or greater, plus sore throat and/or cough). Promote four steps to prevent flu: wash hands, cover cough, stay home if sick, and get vaccinated.
- Increase environmental cleaning: Frequently clean high touch surfaces, like door knobs, desks, and light switches – this helps break down the presence of the virus in the environment.
- Review school policy on sickness and health: Review with staff your school policy on illness among students and staff. Invite the school nurse or physician to speak at a staff meeting or school board meeting to promote prevention of influenza. Consider steps the school will take in the event of continued elevated absenteeism.
Where can I find more information?
- For information on influenza in Maine, go to www.maineflu.gov
- For information on influenza in the US, go to www.flu.gov
- For information on vaccine clinics and health clinics, go to www.211.org or dial 211
- Clinical consultation or absenteeism reports, dial 1-800-821-5821 or email email@example.com