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

2014-2015 Influenza Season:

Seasonal influenza (flu)  is decreasing but is still causing disease in some parts of the United States. The flu virus can easily spread from one person to the next, causing serious illnesses that may result in hospitalization or death, and there are still steps that child care programs can take to protect children from influenza-related illness. Vaccination remains the most important step in protecting children and their caregivers from influenza and its complications.

There is Still Time to Get the Flu Vaccine Now!

Influenza has been known to circulate into June, so it is still important to get the flu vaccine. Vaccine can be given through the month of June since most influenza vaccine has a June 30 expiration date. This critically important approach puts the health and safety of everyone in the child care setting first. Influenza vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older, including child care staff. Vaccination also helps prevent the spread of influenza among particularly vulnerable populations like young infants and children with special health care needs. Flu also is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women. Flu shots may be given during any trimester to protect pregnant women and their unborn babies. In turn, mothers pass antibodies to their newborns at birth that protect the baby in the first few months of life.

Review Immunization Documentation

Programs should review immunization documentation records to confirm that children have been immunized for influenza. All child care facilities should require that parents/guardians of children enrolled in child care provide written documentation of receipt of immunizations appropriate for each child's age. Children who are too young to receive the flu vaccine before the start of influenza season should be vaccinated as soon as they reach 6 months of age. Consider setting up a reminder system for children who reach the age of 6 months during the flu season, to ensure these young infants are vaccinated on schedule.

Preparing for Next Year's Flu Season

It's never too early to prepare for next year's flu season.

Below are some steps you can take now or over the summer:

  • Update family contact information and child records, so parents can be reached quickly if they need to pick up their sick child.
  • Examine and revise the program's written plan for seasonal flu.
  • Schedule influenza prevention education for staff. Review policies on hand washing; cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting surfaces and toys; and excluding (sending home) children and caregivers who are sick.
  • Take the free online American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) course "Influenza Prevention & Control: Strategies for Early Education & Child Care Providers".
  • Display educational materials to encourage hand hygiene and cough/sneeze etiquette.
  • Help families and communities understand the important roles they can play in reducing the spread of flu. Plan ahead to distribute a customized letter and fact sheet in late-summer or early fall to inform parents about influenza prevention and control strategies.
  • Encourage all staff, children, and parents to plan to get the flu vaccine in August 2015 or as soon as vaccine is available. Everyone needs a flu vaccine each year, even when the virus strains in the vaccine do not change from the previous year, because immunity wears off over time. Encourage parents to talk with their child's pediatrician about a plan for children with underlying health conditions to receive the seasonal influenza vaccine as soon as it is available and to treat these children early if they develop influenza-like illness.
  • Consider requiring influenza vaccination for child care workers and children who attend child care. This will not only help to prevent influenza infection, but it will also reduce the spread within the classroom.