Preparing For Flu Season
As Aspen’s students go back to school this week, local administrators and health officials are reminding students and parents to be vigilant in preventing the spread of seasonal and swine influenza.
“The ongoing presence of the Novel H1N1 flu virus in Colorado communities, as demonstrated by 28 outbreaks in summer camps, will present challenges to Coloradans as schools welcome back their students,” said Ned Calonge, chief medical officer at the Department of Pubic Health and Environment. “The new H1N1 vaccine is not scheduled to arrive in the state until mid-October, and vaccine distribution also will present challenges.”
In a mailer sent to parents, the Aspen School District is urging parents to help reduce the spread of flu. The mailer maps out ways parents can help, such as teaching children to wash hands and not share personal items. It instructs parents not to send children to school if they are sick, adding that any children who are determined to be sick while at school will be sent home. The mailer also encourages parents to strongly consider getting seasonal and H1N1 vaccines, as they become available.
Pitkin County flu clinics are being scheduled for this fall. Parents as well as the general public should watch local media outlets for more information on dates and times.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is also urging businesses to prepare for the impact that H1N1 and seasonal influenza could have on employees and operations this fall and winter season.
While it is unknown how severe the upcoming flu season might be, the state health department and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are encouraging businesses to revise their current emergency plans or create new ones and communicate the details of those plans with their employees.
The updated guidance from the CDC was developed for employers of all sizes to use as they create or review their plans to respond to H1N1 or seasonal flu outbreaks. It includes the following advice:
• Allow sick workers to stay home without fear of losing their jobs. Employers should plan to encourage workers who have symptoms of flu or flu-like illness to stay home and not come to work until at least 24 hours after their fever has resolved.
• Encourage frequent hand-washing and routine cleaning of commonly touched surfaces at work.
• Plan how to operate if there is a high level of absenteeism. Identify essential business functions, essential jobs or roles, and critical elements within the operation.
• Be prepared if schools or child-care programs close, requiring employees to stay home with their children. Employers should try to make sick leave policies flexible to allow for these possible closures and for the need for parents to stay home with their sick children.
• Consider removing any policy that requires employees to obtain a note from their doctor regarding their illness. These types of policies can needlessly tie up already over-burdened physicians’ offices.
• If the flu season begins to impact operations, consider canceling nonessential, face-to-face meetings and travel and spacing employees’ work stations farther apart.
A local team of officials has been meeting for more than three years to plan for the possibility of pandemic flu in Pitkin County. With the outbreak of H1N1 in North America this past spring, the team increased efforts to plan for the worst, while hoping for the best. There have been very few reported cases of H1N1 in the Roaring Fork Valley, all of them mild. The team will continue to meet and respond accordingly.