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MAINE EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY
Kennebunk Elementary to Reopen One Day Early
May 5, 2009
AUGUSTA – Based on revised guidance on school closings from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and in consultation with the Maine Center for Disease Control, Maine Education Commissioner Susan Gendron advised Kennebunk Elementary School to reopen on Wednesday, a day earlier than previously recommended.
In the new guidelines issued Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. CDC no longer recommends that schools with probable cases of H1N1 influenza be closed. Instead, it recommends a focus on “keeping all student, faculty and staff with symptoms of influenza out of schools and childcare facilities during their period of illness and recuperation, when they are potentially infectious to others.”
The Kennebunk Elementary School was closed starting last Thursday for an expected seven days after a student was found to be a likely case of H1N1. Subsequent tests showed that the identification was positive for H1N1.
“Based on the new guidance, I have recommended to the superintendent that the school re-open tomorrow. In addition, we will not be recommending to other schools that they close if and when Maine CDC identifies probable cases of H1N1 in students or staff,” Gendron said. “However, we are not out of the woods. Students will continue to contract this flu. We need to be vigilant about the things we know we can do to help prevent the spread: coughing and sneezing into our sleeves or a tissue; washing hands frequently; and staying home if we are sick.”
Gendron noted that, as previoulsy was the case, if staff and/or student absenteeism interferes with the school’s ability to function, school closure would be considered in consultation with local school and health officials.
The U.S. CDC guidance says students, faculty and staff who appear to have influenza-like illness at arrival or who become ill during the school day should be isolated promptly in a room separate from other students and sent home.
The new U.S. CDC guidelines for schools can be found online at: www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/K12_dismissal.htm and will be also be linked from the Maine Department of Education’s H1N1 flu web pages and from the Maine CDC’s web pages (see links below).
Dr. Dora Anne Mills, Director of the Maine CDC, echoed Gendron’s caution.
“The focus should be on family and staff,” Mills said. “We need to encourage them to self-monitor for symptoms and, when they are exhibited, exclude themselves from school or work. We all have a responsibility to ourselves and each other.”
She said if still exhibiting symptoms after seven days, those affected should stay home until at least 24 hours after symptoms have disappeared.
The guidelines are also explicit that ill children should not attend alternative child care or congregate in community settings.
The Maine CDC continues to test possible cases of H1N1. No new cases were identified on Monday or Tuesday. Totals as of Tuesday, May 5: Two adults in Kennebec County, three adults and one youth in York County, and one youth in Penobscot County. All are recovering.
Dr. Mills reiterated the need for people to stay informed, be prepared, and – most importantly – practice proper respiratory hygiene, including the following steps:
1) Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or sleeve.
2) Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
3) Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
4) If you get sick, stay home from work or school for seven days and limit contact with others to avoid infecting them.
For facts about influenza, and more information about H1N1 flu and schools:
Maine Department of Education:
Maine CDC: www.mainepublichealth.gov; or www.maine.gov/dhhs/boh/swine-flu-2009.shtml
U.S. CDC: www.cdc.gov/h1n1/
Preventing the Flu: www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/habits.htm
Last update: 07/20/10
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