Department of Public Health

Information for Education & Childcare Programs

Why should we be concerned about the spread of flu in schools?

Students can get sick with flu and schools may act as a point of spread, where students can easily spread flu to other students and their families.

What can schools and childcare programs do to prepare for flu response during the upcoming school year?

  • Review and revise existing pandemic plans and focus on protecting high risk students and staff.
  • Update student and staff contact information as well as emergency contact lists.
  • Identify and establish a point of contact with the Ottawa County Department of Public Health.
  • Develop a plan to cover key positions when a staff person stays home because they are sick.
  • Set up a separate room for care of sick students or staff until they can be sent home.
  • Utilize the Ottawa County Department of Public Health education campaign tools and resources.
  • Promote preventative behaviors among school personnel through newsletters, employee portals and other existing communication mechanisms.
  • Identify ways to increase social distance (the space between people).
  • Develop a school dismissal plan and options for how school work can be continued at home (e.g., homework packets, web-based lessons, phone calls), if school is dismissed or students are sent home when sick. Communicate this plan to all community members who would be affected.
  • Help families understand the important roles they can play in reducing the spread of flu in schools through newsletters, your school website and other parent communications.
  • Further guidance for higher education, camps and other groups is offered on the CDC website.

What can families, students, and personnel do to keep from getting sick and spreading flu?

  • Practice good hand hygiene. Students and staff members should wash their hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective in the absence of soap and water.
  • Practice respiratory etiquette. The main way that the flu spreads is from person to person in the droplets produced by coughs and sneezes, so it's important to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. In the absence of a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow or shoulder instead of your hands.
  • Stay home if you are sick. Keeping sick students and staff at home means that they keep their viruses to themselves rather than sharing them with others.
  • School personnel and teachers should be good role models by not only teaching but practicing flu prevention. Click here for more ideas to teach flu prevention.

How long should a sick student or staff member be kept home?

Students and staff with symptoms of flu should stay home for at least 24 hours after they no longer have fever or do not feel feverish, without using fever-reducing drugs. If the flu conditions become more severe, these recommendations may change.

Can the virus live on surfaces, such as computer keyboards?

Yes, flu viruses may be spread when a person touches droplets left by coughs and sneezes on hard surfaces (such as desks or door knobs) or objects (such as key¬boards or pens) and then touches his or her mouth or nose. Schools should consider increasing the cleaning frequency of high contact areas.

I What is the guidance for K-12 school closure or dismissal?

Based on current flu conditions, the decision to selectively dismiss a school should be made locally and should balance the risks of keeping the students in school with the social disruption that school dismissal can cause. School dismissals may be considered based on the population of an individual school. For example, a school for pregnant teens may choose to dismiss sooner because of the risk factors for its population. School officials should work closely and directly with the Ottawa County Department of Public Health when deciding whether or not to dismiss a school or schools. The decision should consider the number and severity of cases in an outbreak, the risks of flu spread and benefits of dismissal, the problems that school dismissal can cause for families and communities.