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Chicago Officials Unveil Flu Prevention Strategy

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Mayor Richard M. Daley joined health, school, and family and support services officials today to unveil a citywide strategy that offers steps everyone can and should take to protect themselves and their families - both from the regular "seasonal" flu and the new strain of pandemic flu known as the H1N1, which both federal and local health officials have predicted will increase this fall.

"Even before Chicago saw its first case of the H1N1 last spring, we fully understood that although this new strain of flu is a serious challenge which must be addressed responsibly, no one needs to be alarmed or to panic," said Mayor Daley. “Since that time, we have been able to review the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s proposed guidelines and use them to further develop our plans and our strategy to protect residents this fall - when the numbers of flu cases are expected to increase."

This strategy includes new guidelines for parents who have children suffering with flu like symptoms as well as how students can keep up with their school work if they are at home for several days recovering from an illness.

Chicago Public Schools and the Health Department have also collaborated on a more sophisticated system to track attendance data as well as illness patterns so that school closures are the last possible resort.

"In accordance with the guidelines set by the federal government, our goal is to minimize disruption in the classroom environment - which will also help minimize disruption for parents and their employers," said Mayor Daley.

Specifically, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Terry Mason, M.D advised everyone to:

* Get a "seasonal" flu vaccination as soon as is reasonably possible. To get a seasonal flu shot, contact your family doctor or other health care provider. If you do not have a doctor, call 311 to find a City of Chicago vaccination site. From September 14 to October 9, the City will offer seasonal flu shots at no charge, at 45 one-day flu clinics. Additionally, a number of pharmacies and related businesses are or will soon be offering seasonal flu vaccinations. There will be plenty of “seasonal flu” vaccine, and shots will be easy to get.

* Make an extra effort to cover coughs and sneezes, wash hands regularly with soap and water, and stay home from work and/or school if you have flu-like symptoms (coughing, sore throat and a fever).

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* Remind parents of young children to teach these good health habits to their sons and daughters---and to plan ahead and make home-care arrangements for their children on days when they are ill and should be kept home from school or day care.

* Get vaccinated against the new strain of pandemic flu (also called “swine flu” and “H1N1 flu”). When the pandemic flu vaccine arrives, the Chicago Department of Public Health will take the lead to ensure that it is distributed quickly, efficiently and in accord with federal CDC guidelines. It will be distributed to hospitals, clinics and other health care facilities to ensure that health workers are vaccinated. CDPH will also distribute it to retail pharmacies, occupational health centers and colleges/universities. CDPH will also offer the new vaccine at sites across the city for Chicagoans who do not have a health care provider or whose health care providers do not have vaccine.

The Chicago Public Schools also outlined measures for a mobilized response plan that will be fully operational at the start of the official school year on Tuesday, September 8. Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman said their plan included:

* Using new data surveillance monitoring system that enables Chicago Public Schools to monitor attendance anomalies by school so that school closures are the last resort. The CPS Office of Specialized Services and the Chicago Department of Public Health will work together on a daily basis to monitor attendance data and flu like activity, using absence summary spreadsheets.

* Allowing students with a fever of 24 hours or less to immediately return to school. Students who have fever of 100 degrees or higher will be sent home and are advised to be monitored for 24 hours. If the fever persists beyond 24 hours, they will be advised to remain at home. If the student's fever dissipates after 24 hours, they can return to school. Former CPS guidelines recommended students remain away from school for seven days when a fever was present.

* For children who are home recovering from an illness, CPS will begin to offer "Parent Portals" so that parents can go on-line and download homework assignments to keep their children current on their studies while out of the classroom.

* Hand sanitizers and Kleenex are being stocked at all schools and disposable thermometers at every school. Schools will not be supplied with masks; however children are allowed to wear masks at school.

Finally, Commissioner Mary Ellen Caron said the Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) will send out letters this week to all of its childcare, Early Head Start and Head Start sites to remind all parents of the preventative measures for H1N1. All affiliates will also be asked to contact the Department of Public Health if rates of absence are more or greater than five percent, or if they observe any unusual numbers of absences among staff.

DFSS has also made Heath Info Prevention materials available at all of the City’s six Community Service Centers and 18 Senior Service Centers.

"We fully believe that working together preventive steps will help protect people against disease transmission and protect everyone at school, as well as the larger community," said Mayor Daley. "We are prepared as we can be for this flu season. The best thing we can all do is to stay alert and stay aware."