LAPS Shares NM Department Of Health Guidance To Schools Response To Widespread Influenza Activity

Superintendent Dr. Kurt Steinhaus

Greetings from the Superintendent’s Desk!

Friday, staff from the Los Alamos Public Schools participated in a conference call with Dr. Chad Smeltzer, Sandra Penya and Dr. Michael Landen from the New Mexico Department of Health; copied below is their advisory.

Our staff also are using the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) website for information: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm

  • Every school in Los Alamos has a full-time nurse who is available throughout the day;
  • Staff are providing extra time for student hand washing;
  • Across the district, we have been taking extra time to clean and sanitize door knobs, desks, tables, hand rails, and other surfaces;
  • In addition, our schools are stocking up on hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes; and
  • To date, our absentee rates have not been much greater than usual for this time of year; the principals and I will continue to carefully monitor the situation.

To consult an on-call epidemiologist, contact the New Mexico Department of Health, Epidemiology and Response Division (ERD) 24/7/365 at 505.827.0006.

NMDOH Guidance to Schools Response to Widespread Influenza Activity Across the State

Jan. 26, 2018

The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) is currently reporting widespread influenza (flu) activity in all regions of the state. Influenza-like illness continues to increase in New Mexico from 4.6 percent in week two of the new year, to 5.8 percent last week. While it is not possible to predict when influenza activity will peak or end, schools and childcare settings can limit the impact of influenza on students and staff. 

NMDOH recommends that schools and childcare settings increase education on respiratory and hand hygiene. As well as, monitoring staff and attendees for acute febrile respiratory illness. Ill attendees and staff should be sent home. 
Staff and children (as developmentally appropriate) should all be taught and asked to follow these steps that prevent the transmission of respiratory infections such as influenza by: 

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing.
  • Stay home if you’re sick, especially with a fever.

Staff and parents should be made aware of the symptoms of influenza. Symptoms associated with the flu can include:

  • Fever (although not everyone with flu has a fever)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Tiredness
  • Sometimes diarrhea and vomiting

School or childcare attendees and staff with an acute febrile respiratory illness should be sent home with instructions to stay at home, until fever free for 24-hours without use of fever reducing medication.  Instructions should be given to seek medical care with worsening of symptoms.

It is not too late to get vaccinated! All people 6 months of age and older are recommended to annually receive the influenza vaccine. Getting vaccinated yourself protects people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illnesses, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions. While flu vaccine is not perfect and some people who get vaccinated may still get the flu, there is some data to suggest that flu vaccination may make the illness milder.

Additional recommendations to help reduce the spread of flu in schools include:

  • Separate sick students and staff from others until they can be picked up to go home.
  • Provide adequate supplies, including clean and functional handwashing stations, soap, paper towels, and alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Include handwashing time in student schedules.
  • Encourage routine surface cleaning through education, policy, and the provision of supplies.
  • Match your cleaning activities to the types of germs you want to remove or kill.
    • Flu viruses are relatively fragile, so standard practices, such as cleaning with soap and water, can help remove and kill them.
    • Studies have shown that the flu virus can live and potentially infect a person for only 2 to 8 hours after being deposited on a surface. Therefore, special sanitizing processes beyond routine cleaning, including closing schools to clean every surface in the building, are not necessary or recommended to slow the spread of flu, even during a flu outbreak.
  • NMDOH does not recommend school closure for control of influenza. On rare occasions, a school may need to close during influenza season due to an inability to adequately staff the school.
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