Pandemic Flu Preparedness Kits Available for Schools
June 20, 2006
Schools may be out for the summer, but school officials have an important homework assignment: preparing for a possible pandemic flu outbreak.
Local county health and school officials have created a pandemic flu tool kit for their schools to help them prepare for such an outbreak. At the present, there is no pandemic flu in the United States. People in other countries have been infected with the avian flu (H5N1) virus, also known as bird flu, through close contact with infected poultry. Although avian flu is not spread from person-to-person contact, health officials are concerned avian flu could change into a virus that spreads easily among humans. If this happens, there could become a worldwide pandemic that could kill many people, said Kim Cox, Health Emergency Response Coordinator for Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS).
"At some point, whether it is avian flu or another virus, health experts believe there will be a new virus that spreads easily from person-to-person. Most people won't have immunity and there won't be a vaccine. If that happens, it would drastically change how we live, work and learn so it is vital that we prepare now," Cox said.
CCHS and the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) created the school kit as part of ongoing pandemic flu planning efforts at the local, state and federal levels. CCHS also is working with law enforcement agencies and community groups to prepare.
During a pandemic, schools will play an important role, said Joseph Ovick, Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools.
"This kit will help school administrators, teachers and students understand their role in helping to prevent the spread of disease and how to prepare to cope with large numbers of students and teachers absent," Ovick said.
The kit is designed to provide schools with practical tools needed to prepare staff, students and parents for a pandemic flu outbreak, which might require schools to have back-up plans for alternative ways of holding class. The tools include preparedness and planning information, fact sheets on avian flu symptoms, prevention and health care tips, guidelines on when schools might need to be closed and other information.
The "Schools Pandemic Action Kit" has been given to school districts to distribute and also can be downloaded from the CCHS website (www.cchealth.org) or the CCCOE's website (www.cocoschools.org). Pandemic Flu checklists for law enforcement, businesses, the media and other groups also are available on the CCHS website.
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