Illness caused by the H1N1 Influenza A virus, commonly known as “Swine Flu” is being reported daily in schools. An outbreak of flu is very uncommon in August, but officials at the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) are urging parents and teachers to be alert, and not alarmed.
James Phillips, M.D., Chief of the Infectious Disease Branch at ADH, stated “this was happening all summer long, at summer camps and other group outings, so we were sure that we would see many cases when school started. More people are at risk of getting sick because it’s a new strain of virus. The good news is that it is relatively mild for now, and isn’t causing lots of severe illness. We are responding as if it were the seasonal flu, it’s just happening in August instead of the fall and winter when flu is usually seen.”
Parents are urged to monitor students carefully for signs and symptoms of the flu:
Fever of more than 100 degrees F
Vomiting, nausea and diarrhea
Keep the students home until the students are without fever for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications (acetaminophen or ibuprofen).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is NOT recommending that schools be closed right now, because that will not be an effective way to contain the virus at this point. Right now, the best thing to do is teach the importance of hand washing, cover the mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing or coughing, discard the tissue and wash hands, and stay away from others who are ill. For students identified with Influenza like illness, need to be isolated from other students until the parent/guardian can pick up the student from school. This isolation area does not need to be in an area where well students, faculty or staff are located.
A school district’s individual decision to close should be based on attendance. Closure should not be based solely on a confirmed diagnosis of H1N1 Influenza in the district. If the decision to close is made, please contact Julie Thompson at 501-683-4786 or Julie.firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on influenza visit the Arkansas Department of Health website at www.healthyarkansas.com