2009 Pandemic Influenza (H1N1) Update – August 19
THE PANDEMIC INFLUENZA VIURS (H1N1) CONTINUES TO SPREAD RAPIDLY AROUND THE WORLD. HEALTH EXPERTS ARE PREPARING FOR A SECOND MORE SEVERE WAVE OR OUTBREAK SOMETIME THIS FALL.
Illness and deaths related to this new virus continue to be relatively low in numbers over the spring and summer months, however as the regular flu season approaches this fall there are wide spread concerns that the virus will become more potent and infect more people.
Global health experts continue to work towards developing a vaccine specific for this new flu virus however this takes a number of weeks to develop a vaccine properly. Our federal health minister has ordered 52 million doses of the H1N1 flu vaccine and when the vaccine is ready for use, all Canadians will have the option of receiving the vaccine. Until such time that the proper medications have been developed and are available to the public, the first line of defence against infection and spread of this new virus is to be educated and aware of the latest information and to plan and prepare for a significant number of people becoming ill.
In July public health authorities issued an alert to pregnant women who have been in contact with the new H1N1 virus, saying that if a pregnant woman becomes ill with flu-like symptoms they are to see their medical doctor or health care provider immediately. Pregnant women do not catch the new virus more easily, but when they do become ill with the new virus they are experiencing more severe and serious illness.
Back to School – Guidelines for keeping your children safe
The H1N1 Influenza virus continues to be a concern as our children head back to school this fall. On August 19, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) issued guidelines for child care programs and schools. To date, Federal and provincial health authorities are not recommending wide spread school closures. The decision of whether or not to close schools and daycares will be the responsibility of “local authorities” with input from local school boards, principles, and local community members.
PHAC recommendations for control of the spread of the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza virus for schools and daycare programs (www.phac-aspc.gc.ca)
• Early identification and actions to deal with ill children, students and staff with influenza-like-illness (flu)
- Schools and daycares should develop screening and monitoring procedures and programs for children/students and staff for influenza (flu) symptoms - i.e. An Influenza like illness check list.
- Notify and report outbreaks or unusual situations (increase number of ill students and staff and more severe illness)
- Establish protocols to notify parents/guardians if children/students become sick and provide parents and guardians with additional medical information for monitoring and treatment including when to get medical and emergency care
- Children/students and staff who become ill should be sent home immediately AND should stay home until they are feeling better – flu symptoms are gone (this may be anywhere from 7 to 10 days)
- Be prepared to promptly isolate (keep separate) children/students and staff who become ill from others. Stay 2 meters (6 feet) away from ill people.
• Prevention of spread
- Hand washing and using waterless hand cleaners needs to be a priority for everyone in the school and daycare setting
- Increase access and time to wash hands or use hand sanitizers (alcohol based hand rubs)
- Increase the number of hand wash stations, tissues, waste baskets
- Supervise hand washing for children and others that need help to do a thorough cleaning
- Washing with plain soap and water with good scrubbing of all surfaces of the hands and wrists for at least 30 seconds will clean the hands properly
- Teach and educate all children/students and staff about covering their nose and mouth when they cough or sneeze, using a tissue and throwing them away properly, staying at least 2 meters or 6 feet away from someone who is coughing and/or sneezing
- Cleaning objects and surfaces to kill the flu (influenza) virus
- Clean objects and surfaces that are touched frequently by many students and staff at least twice a day
- Examples of frequently touched objects: doorknobs, faucet handles, computer keyboards, telephones, hand rails etc
GUIDELINES TO PREVENT SPREAD OF INFLUEZNA
Wash hands regularly with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizer if soap and water not easily available
• Before and after handling food
• Before and after eating
• After going to the bathroom
• After coughing and sneezing
• After shaking hands
• After touching surfaces that may be contaminated
Basics of proper hand washing
• Wet hands and apply soap
• Lather all surfaces of hands, including thumbs, and rub together for 30 seconds
• Work fingertips into palms to clean under nails
• Dry hands well with paper towel and use towel to turn off tap
Using hand sanitizers
• Apply enough of the alcohol-based sanitizer to thoroughly cover all surfaces of hands, including fingers and thumb
• Rub fingertips into palms and keep rubbing until hands are dry
• Do not use hand sanitizer with water and do not use paper towels to dry hands
• Wash with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty
Other methods to prevent spread of influenza
• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze; or
• Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands
• Use single use tissue for wiping your nose
• Put used tissue in the wastebasket
• Don’t share eating utensils or drinks
• Refrain from putting out or eating unwrapped candy/snacks
• Avoid visiting people who have influenza if you can
• Stay home when sick with flu-like symptoms
• Frequently clean household and workplace surfaces
• Encourage family and friends to follow these practices