The school year is just starting and school and health officials in Sacramento County have taken on an important assignment: preparing local districts for a possible pandemic flu outbreak.
Sacramento County Public Health and the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) have produced a pandemic flu tool kit to help schools and districts prepare in the event of such an outbreak. There is currently no pandemic flu in the United States. People in other countries have been infected with the avian flu (H5N1) virus, also known as bird flu, through close contact with infected poultry.
The "Schools Pandemic Action Kit" was the subject of a planning workshop on Wednesday, September 20, 2006, at the County Office's David P. Meaney Education Center.
Although avian flu is not spread through person-to-person contact, health officials are concerned avian flu could develop into a virus that spreads easily among humans. If this happens, there could become a worldwide pandemic that could infect many people and, in some cases, cause death. Health officials stress there is little likelihood of such an outbreak occurring but that preparedness planning is necessary.
"All of the work that we invest in this planning process will better prepare us for many kinds of communicable disease outbreaks and public health concerns. This effort will be not be wasted," said Dr. Karen Tait, Deputy Health Officer and pandemic flu coordinator for the County of Sacramento.
Sacramento County Public Health and SCOE, with the assistance of the Contra Costa County Office of Education, developed the school kit as part of ongoing pandemic flu planning efforts at the local, state, and federal levels.
During a pandemic, schools will play an important role, said David W. Gordon, Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools.
"It's important that we all realize that our schools must be ready to deal with possible closings, staff and student absences, medical emergencies for students, and the need to keep the educational system running," said Superintendent Gordon.
The kit is designed to provide schools with practical tools needed to prepare staff, students, and parents for a pandemic flu outbreak, which might require schools to have backup plans for alternative ways of holding class. The tools include preparedness and planning information, fact sheets on avian flu symptoms, prevention and health care tips, guidelines on when schools might need to be closed, and other information.
The "Schools Pandemic Action Kit" has been given to school districts for distribution and is available for download from the Sacramento County Public Health. Pandemic Flu checklists for law enforcement, businesses, the media, and other groups are also available.