School Communicable Illness Plan – Why a School Should Have One
Influenza, commonly called “the flu,” is caused by the influenza virus, which infects the respiratory tract (nose, throat, lungs). Influenza usually spreads from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, and the virus is sent into the air.
Should an influenza pandemic occur, the incidence of illness and death from influenza will likely dramatically increase worldwide. Schools tend to be affected by influenza outbreaks more than other settings because their occupants—primarily children—easily transmit illnesses to one another as a result of their close proximity and their inefficiency at containing droplets from their coughs and sneezes.
Considering the epidemiology of an influenza pandemic, lengthy and widespread absenteeism could result. In a worse-case scenario, a pandemic may severely affect schools causing a ripple effect that disrupts families and businesses in the community. On the other hand closing schools early and curtailing after-school activities may delay an epidemic peak, allowing community medical and other resources to catch up which may help mitigate the pandemic’s severity for families and businesses.
Since a pandemic can last several weeks or months, it will directly or indirectly affect your entire school community.
What are the objectives of a communicable illness plan?
To achieve the following objectives:
- Obtain the necessary support and resources from the school community (made up of the school administration, faculty, staff, students and parents), as well as community partners, stakeholders, lawmakers and decision-makers, in advance of an outbreak
- Establish a framework for identifying, preventing, preparing for, responding to and recovering from an influenza pandemic outbreak that may impact the school community
- Address any/all large-scale communicable illness outbreaks
- Provide awareness and communication to the school community
- Protect the health and safety of the school community
- Communicate effectively and timely through escalating impacts
- Limit the number of illnesses and deaths within the school community
- Preserve continuity of essential school functions
- Minimize educational and social disruption
- Minimize academic and economic losses
What is the scope of a Communicable Illness Plan?
This CIP focuses primarily on describing expected actions of, as well as coordination among, your school and locally-based governmental and private sector entities, particularly those responsible for public health, health care and emergency response. Plan components address:
- Awareness and communication
- Facility issues (e.g. Visitors, social distancing, cleaning, etc.)
- Health and policy
- Specific actions, based on escalating scales of impact
- Student learning
In Developing Communicable Illness Plan, what factors should be considered?
Whether or not your school will be closed, or for how long, is impossible to say in advance, since all pandemics are different in their scope and severity. However, communicable illness outbreaks often start in schools and school closings are likely to happen early in a pandemic event. The duration of school closings can only be determined at the time of the event, based on the characteristics of the pandemic.
It is anticipated that your school will need to plan to function with a 40 percent reduction in the staffing levels.
Other planning assumptions include:
- An influenza pandemic will result in the rapid spread of the infection with outbreaks locally and regionally. Communities across the region will be impacted simultaneously.
- There will be a need for heightened local and regional surveillance of symptoms and infection rates.
- There could be significant disruption of public and privately owned critical infrastructure, including transportation, commerce, utilities, public safety and communications.
- Government agencies will have minimal resources available for on-site local assistance.
- The clinical attack rate may likely be 30 percent or higher in the overall population. Illness rates will be highest among school aged children (about 40 percent), and will decline with age.
- Persons who become ill may shed the virus and can transmit infection one day before the onset of illness and up to seven days after the onset of symptoms. Viral shedding and the risk of transmission will be greatest during the first two to three days of illness. Children usually shed the greatest amount of virus-shred viruses for up to 10 – 14 days; therefore children are likely to pose the greatest risk for transmission.
- Multiple waves of illness could occur with each wave lasting as long as two to three months. Historically, the largest waves have occurred in the fall and winter, but the seasonality of a pandemic cannot be predicted with certainty.
- Antiviral medications will be in extremely short supply and will be used for treatment and not prophylaxis.
- Insufficient supplies of vaccine and antiviral medicines will place greater emphasis on social distancing strategies such as closing schools, community centers and other public gathering points and canceling public events, to control the spread of the disease.
What are the Roles and Responsibilities that School Leadership Face?
School leadership is tasked with pandemic planning oversight, direction, execution and response for San Andres. Responsibilities include the following:
- Appointing a Communicable Illness Team and Coordinator
- Cleaning & Hygiene Procedures
- Continuity of Learning
- Human Resources
- Identifying actions for all staff and students
- Infection Control
- Remote Learning
- Social Distancing Procedures
- Telework Procedures
- Travel Procedures
- Visitor Procedures
How Do We Know What Actions to Take When?
KNOWING WHEN TO TAKE ACTION IS CRITICAL TO THE SUCCESS OF A COMMUNICABLE ILLNESS PLAN.
Firestorm has developed Pandemic Stages that align with the WHO Phases, but provides further breakdown within the WHO Phases. This plans built on a framework of those Pandemic Stages that define the actions to be taken by your during each WHO Phase of the pandemic. The Firestorm stages are:
You must monitor. Firestorm has identified a series of triggers, in the public domain, that can be utilized to escalate Pandemic Stages, policies and procedures. The advantage of identifying triggers at each stage is to position your school to take action.
Actions include alerting the your school community, modifying the structure of the learning environment, canceling before/after school events, finalizing telework options for office personnel, etc.
The triggers are indicators that decisions must be made regarding the safety of your school community and the ongoing operation or closure of the school. Your school leadership has the responsibility to make a formal decision when any trigger has been reached.
What Does a Communicable Illness Plan Cover?
Please call Firestorm at 770-643-1114 or reach out via our CONTACT form and let us answer any questions you may have to assure your school or organization is doing everything possible to keep students, employees and your community safe.