H1N1 Influenza (Swine Flu)

The following information has been provided by Linda Ebner Erceg, R.N., M.S., P.H.N.

4/30/09

The World Health Organization has moved the H1N1 Influenza threat from Phase 4 to Phase 5.  This means that H1N1 is increasingly more adaptive to humans and more established within the human population.  When I consider the impact upon our camp community, this tells me that we should (a) increase our personal protective behaviors and (b) become more intentional in our plans. So  . . .

  • As H1N1 become more prevalent in both in U.S. communities and around the world, I recommend that camps currently hosting clients are aware of the location from which clients come. If a group comes from an area known to have H1N1, make a determination about that group’s presence at your camp. This has both an impact upon infection control and public relations.
     
  • While it may be a bit early to make decisions regarding summer programs, it’s not too early to consider the timeline for such a decision. In so doing, remember that we’re still learning about H1N1. What is determined now may change as we learn more. As a result, perhaps it’s best to use a “rolling timeline” for decisions, especially if the camp holds several different sessions during the summer.
     
  • Look at the camp’s insurance policy, specifically coverage related to illness declarations. Determine – now – what is and what is not covered so you’re in a position to make good decisions. Also verify the camp’s insurance coverage related to business interruption.
     
  • If one hasn’t already done so, talk with the appropriate preparedness team that would direct thing in the camp’s geographic location (don’t know who this is? Call the Sheriff and ask). These people need to know when camp is full of campers and staff. They should also be briefed about your plans to get people home and your ability to “shelter in place.” Inform them now so they understand both camp needs and camp’s ability to take care of campers and staff. Ask them what would happen if camp was full of people and the Powers That Be decided that the group needed to go home. The goal is to fold camp needs into what this preparedness team might be planning.
     
  • Talk with the camp’s medical director about securing medications like Tamiflu. It’s not that a camp needs to lay in a supply now but rather that you want to know (a) if your provider has access to a supply adequate for your camp community and (b) how you’d get that medication. You might find that this question loops you back to the preparedness folks.
     
  • Develop key messages to use when talking with parents. They’re probably getting concerned and may need assurance that the camp is informed and acting proactively. (View sample key messages)
    • Emphasize your camp’s commitment to safety for both campers and staff.
    • Explain how you are staying informed.
    • Ask parents to partner with you by making sure their child practices effective hand-washing and cough/sneeze behaviors.
    • If the parent asks, explain your Opening Day screening process, especially what is done to assess exposure to communicable disease. It’s OK to acknowledge that there are no guarantees. Just as we risk exposure when at the grocery store or mall, there is also a risk at camp.
    • Some parents may be concerned because they know camp has kids and staff from areas currently known to have H1N1. Talk about your surveillance process and the timeline used to make decisions regarding participation of people from these areas.
       
  • Reinforce – firmly – the need for individuals to practice health-preserving behaviors; I can’t emphasize this enough.
    • Wash hands – effectively.
    • Keep personal resiliency high; stay rested, well nourished and hydrated.
    • Be aware of your own coughs and sneezes as well as those from people around you. If you need motivation, watch the video at www.CoughSafe.com. If around people who don’t practice effective cough/sneeze behaviors, try to stay at least an arm’s distance away.
    • Make it “camp policy” that people who have flu symptoms stay home and contact their personal physician.

All of us remain a bit skittish about H1N1.  I certainly hope the threat will settle down but I also think it’s time we position ourselves more proactively

Return to H1N1 Influenza Hot Topics page.

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