Influenza-like illness and high absenteeism reported among students
Boston - The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) announced today that the Boston Renaissance Charter Public School, the largest charter school in Boston, will close for seven days starting tomorrow, May 28, because of unusually high levels of influenza-like illness in recent days. Public health officials said they hope that the temporary closure will prevent new infections and avoid unnecessary illness. The Boston Renaissance Charter Public School, located downtown in the theatre district, will reopen on June 4 for students, teachers, and staff who are not ill.
Eight schools in Boston have now been temporarily closed due to influenza-like illness and high student absenteeism. They include five Boston Public Schools: the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School, Boston Latin School, Umana Middle School Academy, the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science, and the James Condon Elementary School; two private schools - the Winsor School in the Longwood area and the British School in Jamaica Plain- and now a charter school, Boston Renaissance, which has two confirmed H1N1flu cases, involving one student and one faculty member.
Boston Latin and the Winsor were allowed to reopen today and the Umana Middle School Academy can reopen on Thursday, May 28.
BPHC has been assessing the rates and causes of school absenteeism in Boston schools and recommending school closure based on the following four criteria:
- The rate of absenteeism at the school associated with influenza-like illness over multiple days compared to regular attendance at the height of the seasonal flu season;
- The number of students with fever and flu-like symptoms reporting to the nurse and principal;
- The impact of increased absenteeism on the ability of the school to engage in effective learning;
- Special circumstances of the school, such as schools with significant numbers of students with disabilities or medical fragility;
At Boston Renaissance Charter Public School, an average of 182 students have been absent from the last three days of classes, as well as a significant number of faculty and staff. Boston Renaissance serves about 1,200 students.
Those in the Boston Renaissance Charter Public School community are being asked to refrain from all public activities during the seven-day time period to help limit the spread of infection to others.
Anyone who develops flu-like symptoms, including fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, or fatigue should refrain from public activities for seven days after the onset of illness or for 24 hours after symptoms have resolved – whichever is longer.
Most people with influenza recover and do not require a specific medication against influenza. However, people who have other health problems such as lung disease (including asthma), heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, a compromised immune system or cancer, or who are pregnant should call their healthcare provider for advice. In addition, if someone who has medical problems or is pregnant and has very close contact with someone with influenza, they should check with their healthcare provider to see if they need preventive medicine.
BPHC recommends that everyone take the following steps to reduce their risk of illness:
• Cover your mouth when you cough, either with your sleeve or a tissue.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand waterless cleaners are also effective.
• Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
• If you are sick with a fever and cough or sore throat, stay home for 24 hours after all of your symptoms are gone or for seven days – whichever is longer.
• Stay away from clinics and hospitals unless you have severe symptoms, and notify your doctor or the clinic before you arrive, or as soon as you arrive, so that you can be appropriately isolated from others.