Last flu season was a doozy – one of the worst in the past decade – and the virus caused schools to close in at least 12 states.
Even for schools that don’t close, the flu can be disruptive, with students coughing and sniffling in class, or falling behind while home sick.
Between 5 and 20 percent of people in the United States get the flu each fall and winter, according to the National Institutes of Health. And the flu accounted for 39 percent of illness episodes and led to more than 1,075 missed school days over three flu seasons according to a study of more than 1,000 school-aged children published last year in the Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses journal.
Those missed school days can have a huge effect on student outcomes – and the budget.
Flu season typically ramps up in October and November and hits its peak in January and February, which means now is the time to make sure your school is ready.
Want to keep your school safe and healthy this flu season? Here are five tips:
1. Encourage students and teachers to stay home when sick.
Some people may try to be a hero and come to school sick, but it’s important for anyone who gets the flu to stay home until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever to avoid spreading it to other students or teachers.
You could also encourage students, teachers and staff to get the flu shot by offering tips of where and when to get it or even offering vaccinations on campus for staff.
2. Cover your mouth, and teach staff and students to do the same.
Most experts believe the flu is spread by droplets made when people with the flu cough and sneeze. Teach students – and remind teachers – to cover their mouths with a tissue or bent arm to prevent those droplets from spreading.
3. Emphasize the importance of hand-washing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, using a paper towel to dry hands and using that same towel to turn off the faucet. Consider incorporating hand-washing breaks into students’ and staff’s schedules.
4. Regularly clean high-touch areas.
Remember those droplets? They can get on everything, especially objects students and teachers touch often throughout the day. SSC has a special cleaning checklist just for cold and flu season, which puts an emphasis on cleaning high-touch areas like desks, counters and even light switches.
5. Do more than just clean – especially those drinking fountains.
Sometimes a general cleaner won’t cut it. SSC often uses a disinfectant that kills 99.9 percent of germs, and also has policies to prevent cross-contamination.
Did you know? The germiest places in schools aren’t in the bathroom, like most people think, but water fountains, according to Dr. Harley Rotbart, professor emeritus of pediatrics at the University of Colorado. It’s the perfect spot for germ spread since kids put their mouths on the stream of water or on the fountain itself.
Educate your kids to run the water a little first and then drink, or encourage students and teachers to bring their own water bottle – and not share.
Want to learn more about how SSC helps schools prevent the spread of the flu? Get in touch with us.
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