SAFER SCHOOLS NEWS-VOL. 107
WHAT IS A PANDEMIC?
A “pandemic” occurs when a strain of the flu virus mutates to become readily transmitted person to person and is resistant to the common flu vaccines. In 1968 such a mutated variant called the Hong Kong Flu accounted for an additional 34,000 deaths. The most notorious pandemic was the 1918 Spanish Flu that killed 50-100 Million people world wide. The World health Organization has declared that another pandemic can be expected within the next few years. Because schools put more people together than any other agency or industry in any community, it is prudent for schools to be proactive and develop plans for handling an out break that could be pandemic. Hopefully all schools have adopted the “all hazards” approach in developing their which will make those plans easily adapted to a Pandemic Action Plan.
HOW IS THE FLU TRANSMITTED FROM PERSON TO PERSON?
The Principle means for spreading the flu virus is through spray, that is, coughs and sneezes. The Principle gateways for any flu virus are mouth, nose and eyes. To some degree, people are infected by directly receiving droplets from an infected person and breathing them in or absorbing them through the eyes. However, the more common means of infection is touching an infected surface (door knob, water fountain, toilet handle or other person) then touching one’s own mouth, nose or eyes.
HOW IS THE SPREAD OF THE FLU VIRUS CONTROLLED?
Those who potentially contact the most students should be vaccinated as soon as vaccine is made available. Students with other health problems should also receive priority in being vaccinated. Use antiviral disinfectants before, during, after and whenever suspected contamination may exist. Use barriers such as gloves and masks. Restrict visitors and curtail unnecessary student movement and extracurricular activities. Educate students, staff and parents on prevention protocols. See more specifics below.
WILL THERE BE ANY WARNING?
The World Health Organization has developed a global influenza preparedness plan, which defines the stages of a pandemic, outlines the role of W.H.O, and makes recommendations for national measures before and during a pandemic. The phases are:
- Phase 1: No new influenza virus subtypes have been detected in humans.
- Phase 2: No new influenza virus subtypes have been detected in humans, but an animal variant threatens human disease.
Pandemic alert period
- Phase 3: Human infection(s) with a new subtype but no human-to-human spread.
- Phase 4: Small cluster(s) with limited localized human-to-human transmission
- Phase 5: Larger cluster(s) but human-to-human spread still localized.
- Phase 6: Pandemic: increased and sustained transmission in general population.
The world is presently at Phase 3. The Avian Flu or Bird Flu which is a virus specific to birds has been found in over 100 human subjects. Half of those infected have died. There is no evidence as of yet that this virus has mutated or evolved to point that it can be transmitted from human to human.
- Pre-incident Planning and Procedures:
- Identify the state and local agencies responsible for declaring health advisories or emergencies and for officially activating the district’s pandemic influenza response plan.
- Identify for all community stakeholders involved with the operational plan. Give special care to identify those who will be responsible for or help with:
- Designate specific member of the School District to serve on the Crisis Response Team for both planning and execution. These are responsible for ordering, storing, inventory and placement of Emergency Supplies and overseeing their use during an emergency. This should include both Crisis Kits and Shelter-In-Place Kits.
- Train the Crisis Response Team on the Incident Command System and conduct periodic drills to insure proficiency in working with Command Post Operations.
- Conduct Table Top, Command Post and District drills. Learn More
- Coordinate all plans with the local Health Department and Office of Emergency Management to insure that District Plans are both Comprehensive and Fully Integrated.
- Plan to have all agencies respond; prepare to be self sufficient for up to 72 hours.
- Plan on two waves of 6-8 weeks each over a period of several months.
- Develop alternate plans for students who are on the free or reduced breakfast/lunch plans as the school may be their only source of meals. It will be important to continue providing proper nutrition even if the school is closed.
- Participate in exercises of the community’s pandemic plan.
- Develop a plan for alerting the local health department to a substantial increase in absenteeism among students.
- Publish and share lessons learned in doing drills so that Private School and Home Schoolers can be better prepared and reduce the overall community impact.
Perhaps the most important consideration is:
Keep the school going as long as possible and return to normal operations as soon as practical.
For more details or to engage an Expert Consultant call or email Keys today.
If your school needs help in establishing policy or implementing procedures for a Crisis/Emergency Response Plan and Team contact Keys To Safer Schools.com today for assistance from the Multi-disciplinary Team.