WV Schools Urged to Focus on Hygiene When Flu Hits
As summer fades and the seasonal flu season begins, West Virginia Superintendent of Schools of Jorea Marple is urging schools to focus on good hand hygiene, covering coughs and sneezes while encouraging annual flu vaccinations for students, families and staff.
This year, the flu season includes not only the usual influenza with the H1N1 virus, commonly called swine flu, but a variant H3N2 virus.
Marple’s guidance is based on recommendations issued by The Centers for Disease Control when it comes to addressing concerns about H3N2. The H3N2 flu is usually not spread from human to human but only from swine to human. Only three cases of H3N2 have been reported in West Virginia this year.
“Concern about swine flu is understandable,” Marple said. “Parents and educators alike are worried about the effect of the seasonal flu and H3N2 flu on our families and our communities. Our concern is that we keep our children and families safe while disrupting their educations as little as possible.”
• Many of the recommendations for preventing the spread of H3N2 are similar to preventing the spread of seasonal flu. Precautionary steps include:
• Asking students with flu-like symptoms whether they have recently touched or been near a pig, or had close contact with a sick person who has been near pigs.
• Notifying the local health department of any student with flu-like illness and who reports that they have recently been near pigs or had close contact with a person who has been near pigs.
• Early treatment of at-risk students and staff.
• Staying home when sick and remaining there until 24 hours after any fever is gone.
• Separating ill students and staff.
• Washing hands and observing appropriate cough/sneeze etiquette.
• Routine cleaning.
Closing schools because of flu is seldom necessary.
CDC guidelines leave such decisions up to local communities, but urge communities to weigh the very real harm of school closings against the potential harms of increased flu spread.
In West Virginia, schools and communities are encouraged to work closely with their local health officer and health departments when making decisions related to public health.
Things to consider include excessive absenteeism among students or staff, if a large number of kids are visiting the school health office or being sent home during the day with flu-like symptoms, or for other reasons that affect the school’s ability to function.