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Executive Office of Health and Human Services
Department of Public Health

Information for Parents about Flu in Schools

August 31, 2009 

Will H1N1 (swine) flu come back this fall?
Public health experts expect that H1N1 flu will come back this fall and will spread in communities at the same time as the seasonal flu. 

It seemed like H1N1 influenza was pretty mild in the spring.  Should I be any more worried about it this fall than regular seasonal flu? 
Many people who had H1N1 flu were not seriously ill.  While most people who were sick got better without needing medical treatment, some people were hospitalized and some have died.  Most of the people who became very sick were pregnant or had health problems like diabetes, asthma, heart disease, kidney disease, or suppressed immune systems.

Will the H1N1 flu virus be stronger than it was last spring and make people sicker?
We don’t know whether it will be stronger than in the spring, or stronger than seasonal influenza.  We do know that more people will get sick with the H1N1 virus because it’s a new virus, and most people have no immunity.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health organizations will continue to monitor the virus to see if it changes. 

What can I do to keep my child from getting sick?
It is important to teach your children how to reduce their risk of getting the flu and how to protect others from becoming infected.  If we all practice good hygiene, we can limit the spread of flu in our schools.

Should my child get the seasonal flu shot?
All children aged 6 months through 18 years should get a flu shot every year.  This year it will be available earlier.  You should get your children vaccinated as soon the flu shot becomes available, possibly starting in September.  You can get if from your doctor or nurse, and from some pharmacies.  Some communities will also provide flu shots at schools and local boards of health. 

Should my child get the H1N1 flu shot?
H1N1 flu shot should be available in October.  The H1N1 flu shot is recommended for everyone, especially:

Can the seasonal flu shot and the H1N1 flu shot be given at the same time?
Experts believe that seasonal flu shots and H1N1 flu shots can be given at the same time. However, we expect the seasonal flu shot to be available earlier than the H1N1 flu shot.  Because the seasonal flu will still make people sick, people are encouraged to get their seasonal flu shot as soon as it is available.

If I got sick this spring with flu-like symptoms, am I protected from getting it again this fall? 
Unless you had a laboratory test that confirmed you had H1N1 influenza, it’s possible that you had something other than H1N1.  Even if you had H1N1 influenza, we don’t know how much immunity it will provide for the fall.  The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and CDC recommend H1N1 vaccine for everyone.  

If there if H1N1 flu in my community, is it safe for my child to go to school?

At this time, state and local public health officials recommend that students can--and should--continue to go to school, as long as they are not sick and do not have flu symptoms.  Flu-like symptoms include: fever (over 100.4 degrees F), with cough and/or sore throat.  Additional symptoms of H1N1 flu include: runny nose, stuffy nose, headache, body aches, feeling very tired, and sometimes vomiting or diarrhea

What should I do if my child is sick?
Flu spreads easily from person to person.  If you think your child is getting the flu:

  • All individuals with flu-like symptoms should stay home for at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever, without using fever-reducing medicines.  These medicines include Motrin or Advil (ibuprofen), Tylenol (acetaminophen) or a store brand.  Keeping children with a fever at home will keep them from getting other people sick.  For most people, this will be about 4 days. See the ‘Flu Symptom Checklist for Families and Schools’ on page 4 for more information. 

Will my child’s school be closed if there is a case of flu?
School and public health officials will be focused on preventing the spread of the flu in schools so that schools can stay open.  These officials will be closely following the situation and will inform you in the unlikely event that your child’s school is closed.  However, it is important to plan ahead.  Talk to your family now to decide who would care for your child if their school is closed.  If school is closed, it is important that students not gather together at another location, but rather stay home to avoid spreading the flu virus to other people.

What precautions are being taken at schools?

Where can I get more information?

Thank you for your help and cooperation in keeping our children and our schools healthy.

Flu Symptom Checklist for Families and Schools

Updated August 31, 2009 

The main symptoms of influenza (flu) include fever and cough and/or sore throat. Some people also have a runny nose, body aches, headache, chills and feel tired.  Some people also have diarrhea and vomiting.  The most important thing that you can do to keep flu from spreading in the community is to keep your sick child at home when they are sick.                                         
                                         


SHOULD I KEEP MY CHILD HOME?

 

Yes    No      Has your child had a fever of 100.4 degrees or more in the past 24 hours?       

Yes    No      Does your child have a cough OR sore throat?                                                                       
If you answered YES to both questions above, keep your child home

Your child has an influenza-like illness

CAN MY CHILD RETURN TO SCHOOL?

 

Yes    No      Has your child had a fever of 100.4 degrees or more in the past 24 hours?        
Yes     No      Has your child had acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) in the past 24 hours?                                                                                                        
If you answered NO to both questions above, your child can return to school.

If you answered YES to one of the questions above, your child CANNOT return to school.  Keep you child home for at least another day to observe for additional symptoms.  Then use the checklist questions again to decide whether you should continue to keep your child home.

 Where can I find more information about influenza?

1) Call the Massachusetts Department of Public Health information line: 211

2) Go to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health influenza website:  mass.gov/ flu

3) A “Fever Fact Sheet” with information on how to take a temperature is also available.

 

 

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