Thursday, Dec. 14

Pandemic flu preparedness guide available for Illinois schools       Send a link to a friend

[DEC. 14, 2006]  SPRINGFIELD -- On Thursday, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced a new guide for Illinois schools that provides them the tools they need to proactively plan and prepare for a pandemic flu outbreak. The Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois State Board of Education jointly prepared the "School Guidance During an Influenza Pandemic" document.

"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:

  • Pandemic flu summit: 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.

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  • Tabletop 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.

  • FluEx 2006: To 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.

  • Prairie Thunder 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."

  • Bioterrorism summit: 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 Illinois.

For a copy of "School Guidance During an Influenza Pandemic," visit

The Illinois Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response Plan is available at

[News release from the governor's office]


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