COMMONWEALTH of VIRGINIA
Department of Education
August 7, 2009
TO: Division Superintendents
FROM: Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction
As the beginning of a new school year approaches, school division leadership is encouraged to prepare for the re-emergence of H1N1 Influenza (H1N1). Unlike seasonal influenza, H1N1 has not gone away over the summer and is disproportionately affecting school-age children. Schools should be prepared before school starts to meet the challenges this outbreak may create. School division leadership should review methods of communicating with parents quickly and effectively. In addition, alternate methods of instruction should be in place for extended absences or school closures.
This is the time for school division personnel to review their pandemic influenza plans and make revisions as needed. Experiences in the spring have been invaluable in helping school divisions determine if their pandemic influenza plans are useful and reliable. Ongoing communication among school division officials, local health department officials, and community leaders should already be in place. You should continue to monitor this fluid situation by accessing the latest information on the Virginia Department of Education's dedicated H1N1 website: http://www.doe.virginia.gov/support/health_medical/influenza/index.shtml. This site contains guidance for schools, school closure information, sample letters, and links to other reliable sources of H1N1 information. Please mark this site as one of your "favorites" and review the contents on a consistent basis.
Several important points have been brought forward nationally. First, school divisions need to designate a confined space to isolate students who are suspected to have H1N1 until parents can pick them up. Second, staff needs to be identified and trained to assist primary health care personnel should a large number of students become sick.
The following resources are provided for your information:
Virginia has a strong public health system and is well prepared to address any resurgence of H1N1. The Virginia Department of Health encourages anyone with influenza-like illness to follow these standard guidelines:
CDC guidance on school closure from May 22, 2009, is still current and can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/schools/schoolguidance.htm. As guidance is revised, it will be posted to the VDOE website and communicated to school leadership.
The Virginia Department of Education is working closely with the Virginia Department of Health in an effort to protect public health. We will continue to update our agency H1N1 website with accurate and up-to-date information. If you have questions, please contact Tia Campbell, school health specialist, at 804-786-8671 or Tia.Campbell@doe.virginia.gov.
PIW / tbc