Bath County Public Schools
Pandemic Flu Planning Guide
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “An influenza pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus appears against which the human population has no immunity, resulting in several simultaneous epidemics worldwide with enormous numbers of deaths and illness. With the increase in global transport and communications, as well as urbanization and overcrowded conditions, epidemics due to the new influenza virus are likely to quickly take hold around the world.”
Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory virus that is responsible for annual epidemics in the United States and other countries. Each year an average of 2,000,000 people contract influenza, 200,000 are hospitalized and 36,000 die in the United States from influenza infection or a secondary complication. During an influenza pandemic the level of illness and death from influenza will likely increase dramatically worldwide.
The impact of an influenza pandemic on the local economy and business processes could be devastating. It is likely that 15-35% of Virginia’s population will be affected. There is a potential for high levels of illness and death, as well as significant disruption to society and our economy, making planning for the next influenza pandemic imperative.
In the event of an influenza pandemic active in our county, the operations of the Bath County Public Schools will be altered. Delivery of instruction to students will need to be ensured through unconventional methods. Current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control do not recommend school closure unless there are insufficient numbers of staff to operate effectively, or unless the CDC or the Virginia Deparment of Health recommend otherwise.
The following assumptions are based on current understanding of pandemic flu outbreaks:
Predicted spread and severity:
- Global spread in 3 months
- Vaccine available 6 months after initial outbreak
- Anti-viral treatment is likely to be in short supply and may not be available.
- Large percentages of the population may be unable to work for days to weeks during the pandemic.
- Diminished numbers of people and expertise available.
- Diminished emergency and essential services – fire, law enforcement and medical.
- Potential for school closures.
- Large number of staff absent, difficulty maintaining normal school operation.
- Loss of services from suppliers (food service, therapies, etc.)
- Large number of student absenteeism.
- Alternative instructional delivery systems are recommended to ensure continuity of instruction.
The purpose of this guide is to assist in managing the impact of an influenza pandemic on schools based on two main strategies: reducing spread of the virus within school facilities and sustaining educational functions. This guide provides pandemic flu recommendations centered around the following:
- Communcations to schools from external sources (CDC, local Public Health Department) regarding the pandemic virus, and internal communications within the school division.
Reducing the Spread of the Virus:
- Reducing risk of infected persons (students, staff, visitors) entering the facility.
- Student spacing (reduce person to person interactions) including postponing school events or activities.
- Cleaning and disinfecting of facilities.
- Educating parents/students/staff to address concerns.
- Handling students/employees who become ill at school and those who may have been exposed to the virus at school.
- Related information regarding provision of and use of Influenza vaccine and Anti-viral medication.
Continuity of Operations
- Identification of essential staff and functions.
- Planning for absenteeism of students and staff
- Communication with parents/guardians/students/employees.
Pandemic Plan Maintenance
- Annual Review and dissemination
The most effective approach to the pandemic influenza threat is to align policies and procedures with the local public health department recommendations for pandemic influence. A primary communication channel will be the VA public health website at www.vdh.virginia.gov/pandemicflu. Specific information for schools (www.bath.k12.va.us/schoolsafety/flu) will also be linked to the home pages of school and division websites. Communicate and educate faculty/staff/students/parents/guardians about effective hygiene habits before any outbreaks occur to protect everyone now (promotion of frequent hand washing, cough/sneeze etiquette). :
Communications to Employees:
- Communications to employees may be via email, school phone tree, web page, School Messenger notification system, and postal service. Advise the employee in advance where to find up-to-date and reliable information.
- Links to appropriate health or external sites should be utilized.
- Educational communications should be provided to encourage employees to acquire and maintain personal, regular healthcare services.
- Educational communications should be provided regarding school policies for employee’s compensation and sick leave absences that may be unique to a pandemic.
Communications to Students/Parents/Guardians
- Disseminate information about the district/school’s pandemic preparedness and response plan, once developed.
- Anticipate the potential fear and anxiety of students and families as a result of rumors and misinformation and plan rapid and accurate communications accordingly.
- Disseminate information for parents about the potential impact of a pandemic on school functioning (arranging for childcare in the event of a school closure, continuity of instruction).
- Hotline (Infoline) availability for Pandemic directives.
- Establish a Virginia Department of Health link on the school and division homepages to encourage students, staff and the community to view educational information on Pandemic Flu.
Reducing the Spread of the Virus
- Appoint a pandemic coordinator and committee at each school. This team should have defined roles and ensures tha preparedness and pandemic response planning occurs. Team composition may mirror the school crisis response team.
- The division Crisis Management coordinator, superintendent and other administrators will manage the division’s response to the pandemic
- Collaborate with Bath County Emergency Services staff and the local Public Health Department.
- Planning activities should include input from administration, employees, students, and parents as appropriate. Ensure provision of sufficient and accessible infection prevention supplies (soap, alcohol based hand hygiene products, tissues and appropriate receptacles).
- Develop a process with the local public health department to report a substantial increase in absenteeism among students and faculty.
- Upon notification that a pandemic with potential local impact is occurring, the pandemic coordinator and/or team should do the following:
- Set up prominent notices at all entry points to facility, advising staff, students and visitors not to enter if they have symptoms or influenza.
- Educate employees, students, parents and visitors on how to stop the spread of the virus and notices may be placed around the school (including entrances, bulletin boards, restrooms, etc.) Notices should contain information regarding hand hygiene, covering coughs and sneezes, etc.)
- Ensure adequate supply of tissues, hand sanitizer, soap and water, and cleaning supplies are available to students and employees.
- Ensure that employee, student and parent education includes a pandemic influenza fact sheet containing information regarding stopping the spread of the virus.
- Clean shared work areas such as desktops, tables, door knobs, stair rails, etc. with a disinfectant at least daily, more often if possible.
- Consider and prepare for how/if the school may function with 25-30% of the workforce absent.
- Consider development of alternative procedures to assure continuity of instruction, distance learning methods (web-based, telephone trees, mailed lessons and assignments, School Messenger notification system, public television broadcasts) in the event of large numbers of absenteeism or school closure.
- In consultation with the local Public Health Department director, consider if/when the school will close.
- Make known to students, staff and the community that closing schools is only effective for disease containment if the staff and students are stay at home during the school closure.
Student spacing refers to distancing individuals and strategies to reduce the spread of the virus between people. Bath County Public Schools will follow recommendations for student spacing from the Centers for Disease Control and the Virginia Department of Health.
- Disinfecting of shared work areas, counters, railings, door knobs, and stair wells should be performed more frequently during the influenza pandemic.
- Filters of the air conditioning systems should be cleaned and changed frequently.
- Telephones should not be shared if possible, but should at least be frequently cleaned.
- Specialized cleaning solutions are not essential. Standard cleaning products are adequate (including soap and water) and can disinfect surfaces, so most important is the frequency of cleaning.
- Where operationally possible, during the day increase ventilation to the facility to decrease spread of disease and following each school day the school may be thoroughly ventilated and cleaned (either opening all doors and windows or turning up air conditioning/heating systems).
Educating Students/Staff/Parents to Eliminate Concern
It is likely there will be anxiety regarding the pandemic influenza and this may contribute to increased absenteeism and/or increased distress to staff. Suggested methods to address this:
- Educate those involved in your preparedness efforts.
- As more information becomes available, provide timely updates.
- During the pandemic, continue to educate staff, students and parents on the pandemic and its effects.
- As needed, work with local resources and local public health to assure support mechanisms are readily available for example: mental health, social services and faith-based resources.
Managing Illness in Staff, Students or Visitors
- Post information on what to do if people get sick at school.
- Educate staff and students regarding symptoms or illness and guidelines for staying home and when returning to school is appropriate.
Public health officials will make the best use of available vaccine and will inform schools and the public on how any available vaccine will be used. It may take six months or more to manufacture the vaccine after the pandemic begins. Meanwhile, encourage employees and students to obtain the annual seasonal influenza vaccines. The Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control will provide advice on priority groups for available pandemic influenza immunization.
Antiviral medications may play an integral role in the treatment and prevention of pandemic influenza; however, their efficacy against a pandemic strain of influenza is currently unknown. Unlike the influenza vaccine, limited amounts of certain antiviral medications are already available, though there may be barriers in attempting to use them as a treatment and prevention tool in the event of pandemic influenza. The Virginia Department of Public Health will provide recommendations of the use of anti-viral medication.
Continuity of Operations
The administrative team should ensure that core functions, people and skills have been identified and that strategies are in place to manage these prior to the pandemic. A process shall be identified for maintaining the operations of the central office (including budget, payroll and ongoing communications with parents and students).
Pandemic Plan Maintenance
The plan should be reviewed and revised annually. Plans should be shared with partners such as the local Health Department.
Adapted from Roanoke County Public Schools