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What’s the Latest with the Flu? A Message for Caregivers & Teachers

2014-2015 Influenza Season:

With flu activity for the 2014-2015 season increasing, be sure that your Head Start or early education and child care program is prepared to respond once flu hits your community. Remember that 80% of all influenza illness generally occurs in January, February, and March each year.

Get your Flu Vaccine!

Even though the flu season has already begun, it is not too late to get your flu vaccine, and encourage others to do the same. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that all people aged 6 months and older, especially those with chronic medical conditions, receive the flu vaccine. This includes all child care providers and staff. After receiving the flu vaccine, people begin to develop antibodies and should be protected from the flu about 2 to 4 weeks later. Everyone needs a flu vaccine each year because immunity wears off over time. This is true even when the virus strains in the vaccine do not change from the previous year, as is the case this flu season.

As you may know, there are 3 or 4 flu virus strains included in each year's flu vaccine. This year, one of the flu strains that is circulating does not match what is in the vaccine. This may lead to a decrease in vaccine effectiveness against this particular virus (H3N2). The AAP continues to recommend that all children 6 months and older (and their caregivers), who are eligible for influenza vaccination, be immunized against influenza as soon as possible. It also highlights the importance of influenza antiviral treatment as a valuable second line of defense for children with influenza.

Prevent the Spread of Germs:

Once flu starts circulating, it can be challenging to keep germs from spreading. It is also hard to know whether children or caregivers actually have the flu. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those persons may still spread the virus to others.

Policies in your child care center can limit the spread of the influenza virus and should focus on hand washing; cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting surfaces and toys; and excluding children and caregivers who are sick. Any child with respiratory symptoms (cough, runny nose, or sore throat) and fever should be excluded from their child care program. The child can return after the fever has resolved (without the use of fever-reducing medicine), the child is able to participate in normal activities, and staff can care for the child without compromising their ability to care for the other children in the group.

It is also a good idea to assess the knowledge of the staff in your program in regards to the flu and offer influenza prevention education for staff. Encourage caregivers to:

  • Review the AAP Influenza Prevention and Control Information for Caregivers and Teachers Fact Sheet.

  • View the Archived AAP Webinar: View the 90-minute AAP webinar: "Improving Head Start/Child Care and Community Readiness and Response to Seasonal Influenza." This webinar will help staff to increase their knowledge of important influenza prevention and control strategies for this year's influenza season.

  • Complete Online Training: Take the free 1-hour AAP/CDC online course "Influenza Prevention & Control: Strategies for Early Education & Child Care Providers." This course educates staff who work in Head Start and other early education and child care programs about influenza policies and strategies that help keep children healthy. The course is approved for 1.0 contact hour.

  • Display Materials: Display educational materials in Head Start or other early education and child care facilities to encourage proper hand hygiene and cough/sneeze etiquette.

  • Learn More: Review the AAP Managing Infectious Disease Outbreaks chapter. This chapter outlines important strategies to assist in preparing for and identifying a potential outbreak. Seasonal influenza and enterovirus-D68 can lead to similar symptoms. To ensure the health of the children in your care, the AAP recommends that caregivers and teachers be vigilant about managing infectious diseases (e.g. emphasize the need for immunizations, and implement infection control and exclusion practices). The AAP has also developed information for parents and child care programs and schools on EV-D68.

Additional Resources:

 

Published
12/12/2014 12:00 AM