COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

P.O. BOX 2120

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA 23218-2120

SUPTS. MEMO NO. 94

May 5, 2006

INFORMATIONAL

TO:

Division Superintendents

 

FROM:

Patricia I. Wright

Acting Superintendent of Public Instruction

 

SUBJECT:

Pandemic Influenza

 

The purpose of this memo is to inform you about plans at the national and state level to combat Pandemic flu and the role of school divisions.

 

Pandemic Influenza differs from seasonal influenza in that it is a global outbreak of disease that occurs when a new influenza A virus appears in humans, causes serious illness, and then spreads easily from person to person worldwide. Pandemic strains also often cause more serious disease. Because of this, past flu pandemics have led to high levels of illness, death, social disruption, and economic loss.

 

Local educational agencies (LEAs) play an integral role in protecting the health and safety of their divisions staff and students and their families. Checklists developed by the federal Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Education, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), assist local educational agencies in developing and/or improving plans to prepare for and respond to an influenza pandemic. These recommendations include planning and coordination, continuity of student learning and core operations, infection control, and procedures and communications planning. These model plans and checklists can be found at

http://www.pandemicflu.gov/plan/schoolchecklist.html

 

Preparedness is the key to successful handling of any crisis. Careful consideration of the model plans and checklists can improve your crisis plan and better prepare you and your school community to respond to an actual crisis. Building a strong relationship with the local health department is critical for developing a meaningful plan. The following website will provide you information regarding your local health department. http://www.vdh.state.va.us/LHD/LocalHealthDistricts.asp

 

Recently, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) created a Pandemic Flu Advisory Team comprising representation from the fields of public health, private industry, law enforcement, government, and the private health care industry to lead the commonwealths preparedness efforts. The Virginia Department of Education is represented on this advisory team, which began meeting in 2005 to develop additional strategies and enhance Virginias pandemic flu response plans. Virginia is also working closely with national and other state partners to coordinate efforts.

 

VDH is leading public information efforts to raise awareness of this issue and to help Virginians better understand the complex issues that will arise if pandemic flu becomes a reality. These include prioritizing who will receive scarce medications and vaccine supplies and how a pandemic will impact the daily activities we all take for granted, such as having to close schools or cancel sporting events and large public gatherings during a pandemic.

 

On March 23, 2006, VDH held a Virginia Pandemic Influenza Summit at the Greater Richmond Convention Center to inform community partners about pandemic influenza plans at the national and state level and to foster planning at the community level. Governor Kaine and Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt addressed the issues of Virginia and the nation becoming prepared for potential pandemic influenza.

 

A Pandemic Flu Web page will soon be added to the Virginia Department of Education website. Additional information may also be found at www.pandemicflu.gov, http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/pandemicflu/, and www.ncdp.mailman.columbia.edu. Should you have questions please contact Gwen P. Smith at 804-786-8671 or e-mail at Gwen.Smith@doe.virginia.gov

 

PIW/gps