H1N1 Preparedness Tips and Facts for the Upcoming Camp Season

Influenza is generally not a summer ailment. Last summer's experience was atypical, which reminds us to keep protective behaviors alive and well at camp! It is critical to know the facts about H1N1 and know the resources to access for up-to-date information.

  • The H1N1 immunization is a recommendation, not a requirement. While knowing if campers have received the immunization is helpful, there will be people at, in, and around camp without it — unless the camp makes the immunization a requirement for its campers and staff.
  • People with symptoms were presumed to have H1N1 last summer; consequently, we really don't know — specifically — if a given individual did, indeed, have H1N1. As a result, making assumptions based on illness history is not always accurate.
  • Winter is typically flu season. Many of us expected a flu peak during the winter months and that has not materialized — yet. Perhaps H1N1 has/is burned out? Perhaps we're yet to see a resurgence? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posts weekly updates about H1N1 at www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/update.htm.
  • People are still dying from influenza/H1N1. Risk remains. All of us should remain cognizant of that and, in particular, remind individuals with risk profiles to talk with their medical doctor about participation in group-based activity like camp.
  • The CDC's international situation update (www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/updates/international/) reports that flu rates appear to be low or declining.

So, what's a camp to do? Since we don't know what summer will bring, protective behaviors, appropriate screening, and a preparedness plan (e.g., be ready to isolate and care for people, communicate with parents) are in our best interests. The behaviors, if institutionalized, will also serve our camp community into the future (yes, communicable illnesses like H1N1 will continue to be present; just wait!).

Camps should continue delivering key messages to parents: (a) keep sick kids home, (b) children who do not meet Opening Day screening parameters may be sent home, (c) continue to reinforce protective behaviors at home, and (d) talk with the camp if you're concerned. Keeping parents informed goes a long way!

Camps should consider whether they need to gather information about each participant's (camper and staff) H1N1 immunization status. It is also important for camps to realize that a history of “having H1N1” is based on presumption unless, of course, the person had a definitive lab test to verify H1N1.

For updated news regarding H1N1, visit the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy Web site at www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/influenza/swineflu/index.html.

Essential for Staff Training and Operations
The Basics of Camp Nursing

Contributed by Linda Ebner Erceg, R.N., M.S., P.H.N., associate director of Health and Risk Management at Concordia Language Villages, and executive director, Association of Camp Nurses.

Tags: H1N1