"We need to prepare for a pandemic flu outbreak at every level,"
Blagojevich said. "Earlier this year, we tested our state's ability
to respond to a pandemic flu outbreak. We need to make sure our
schools are ready too. School administrators would face challenges
like determining when to require sick students, teachers and staff
to stay home or when to close their schools. This guide will help
them prepare for these kinds of decisions."
The guide includes
school action steps, a pandemic planning checklist, public health
instructions, fact sheets about pandemic flu versus seasonal flu,
and sample letters schools can send to parents to keep them informed
during a pandemic.
"We've included in this guide basic information about stopping
the spread of germs, so people know some of the steps they can take
to help stave off pandemic flu and reduce its spread," said Dr. Eric
E. Whitaker, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.
"There is also information in the guide about monitoring and
documenting the number of students and staff who are absent with
influenzalike illness. Keeping track of absenteeism will help
officials determine when and whether to close schools and track the
progress of the disease in the community."
In the case of a pandemic, any decision for an emergency school
closing should be made by the local district, consulting with or at
the direction of the local health department, emergency management
agency and Regional Office of Education.
"The health and well-being of our students and school personnel
across Illinois is of utmost importance," said Christopher Koch,
interim state school superintendent. "It is essential to have
guidelines in place should we experience a pandemic flu outbreak."
The guide is the result of work by a subcommittee of the Pandemic
Flu Work Group, which was created to address matters such as
personal protective equipment, alternate care facilities, and
antiviral or vaccine prioritization. The group continues to work on
creating additional documents on these issues.
Other pandemic flu preparations Illinois has made:
In March 2006, Blagojevich and U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt hosted a
summit addressing federal, state and local public health
officials, business and community leaders, and the public about
pandemic flu preparedness. The governor and Leavitt signed a
planning resolution committing the state and federal governments
to planning efforts.
[to top of second column]
exercises: In 2006, the Illinois Department of Public Health
conducted three tabletop exercises on pandemic influenza. The
exercises designed to document specific steps and resources
needed to improve preparedness efforts in the state. The
Illinois Department of Agriculture, Illinois Emergency
Management Agency and Illinois State Board of Education
participated in the tabletop exercises along with local health
departments, hospitals and other health care organizations.
help improve emergency planning and preparedness in Illinois, an
ambitious three-day exercise in May 2006 tested the state's
preparedness for handling a major health crisis and simultaneous
terrorist attacks. More than 50 representatives from state and
federal agencies and the American Red Cross reported to the
State Incident Response Center within the State Emergency
Operations Center in Springfield to participate in the exercise.
In August 2006, the state conducted a major
five-day emergency response exercise in the Metro East area,
including a mass evacuation and sheltering component, to test
the state's ability to respond to large-scale emergencies. The
exercise brought federal, state and local response organizations
together in a coordinated response to multiple emergency
scenarios, which included intelligence gathering and response to
simulated terrorist attacks, distribution of materials from the
Strategic National Stockpile, victim search and rescue efforts,
and establishment of a field hospital for treating "victims."
In August 2006, the Department of Public Health also
hosted "Partners Sustaining the Heartland," a state summit in
Oak Brook for public health professionals involved in
bioterrorism and emergency preparedness planning and response.
The summit provided a comprehensive overview of federal, state
and local bioterrorism and emergency preparedness activities in
For a copy of "School Guidance During an Influenza Pandemic,"
The Illinois Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response Plan is
[News release from the governor's