USD 491 plans for possible H1N1 outbreak
To some, the H1N1 virus might be a relic of spring 2009. But a contingent of Douglas County public and private school leaders — including Eudora USD 491 Superintendent Don Grosdidier — met Aug. 11 with Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department officials to decide how to go about vaccinating children should an outbreak occur this fall.
The district is making preliminary plans for vaccination clinics at the schools this fall, should vaccines be available from the LDCHD.
One of the biggest priority groups that would receive vaccinations for the virus are students from 5- to 24-years-old. Other priority groups include adults who have chronic health conditions, pregnant women, and health and emergency workers.
Teachers and school staff are not in those priority groups.
Those who are in priority groups will receive the vaccine for free. Those who are not in the priority groups can consult their physician to find out if the vaccine is available at a cost.
The vaccine won’t be available until October. It would be administered only with parental permission and according to the latest recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Grosdidier met Monday with school nurses to begin to look at prevention of the virus from a local standpoint.
“I think it’s our responsibility to provide our patrons with as much information as possible so they can make a wise decision, and also do whatever we can to support the process and make it as easy as possible,” Grosdidier said.
In the event of an outbreak, officials with the CDC have advised schools to avoid closure if possible.
“School and health officials should work closely to balance the risks of flu in their community with the disruption dismissals will cause in both education and the wider community,” stated a school guidance document on the CDC Web site.
The district will look for increases in average absence percentages during flu season to decide when it would be appropriate to close school because of low attendance.
The district hopes to educate parents and school staff about prevention and symptoms so that kids who may have the virus can be sent to the school nurse.
Students who have the virus are to be kept at home and can’t return to school until at least 24 hours after their fever breaks.
“We’ll be doing everything we can to educate our staff and parents about that so that everyone is on board,” Grosdidier said.
Meetings will continue throughout the year and Grosdidier will represent not just USD 491, but also Eudora at subsequent meetings of area municipal leaders.
Grosdidier encouraged parents to not be afraid, but instead aware of the possibility for an outbreak.
“Parents need to be vigilant, and parents need to have confidence that we’ll be vigilant about it, and we may be calling parents and sending kids home. We ask for their cooperation in that,” he said.