August 7, 2009

CDC: H1N1 flu won’t close most schools

If H1N1 flu returns in the fall, schools are being directed to isolate ill children, but to remain open, several U.S. government agencies advised Friday.

The decision to dismiss students should be made locally and should balance the goal of reducing the number of people who become seriously ill or die from influenza with the goal of minimizing social disruption and safety risks to children sometimes associated with school dismissal, the heads of the U.S. Departments of Education, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at a news conference.

Based on the experience of school districts that had large swine flu outbreaks last spring, the potential benefits of pre-emptively dismissing students from school are often outweighed by negative consequences, including students being left home alone, health workers missing shifts when they must stay home with children, students missing meals, and interruption of students' education.

However, the overall impact of H1N1 flu in the fall should be greater than last spring and school dismissals may be warranted, depending on the disease burden and other conditions, the agencies said.

The flu guidance also recommends that students and staff with influenza-like illness remain home until 24 hours after resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.

The CDC said 436 people have died from H1N1 flu this year in the United States.