U.S. school pandemic preparedness lags

Fewer than half U.S. schools address pandemic preparedness

ST. LOUIS | September 5, 2012

School preparedness for disasters, including biological events, is mandated but fewer than half of U.S. schools address pandemic preparedness, researchers say.

Lead author Terri Rebmann of the Saint Louis University School of Public Health and her team collected and analyzed surveys of about 2,000 school nurses serving primarily elementary, middle and high schools in 26 states to determine whether schools were prepared for another pandemic.

Pandemic preparedness is critical not only because of ramifications of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, but also because of the threat of a future pandemic or an outbreak of an emerging infectious disease, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome.

The study, published in the American Journal of Infection Control, found 30 percent of schools stockpiled any personal protective equipment, 22.9 percent had no staff trained on the school's disaster plan, while 34 percent of schools reported training students on infection prevention less than once per year.

Only 1.5 percent of schools report stockpiling medication in anticipation of another pandemic, but although only 2.2 percent of schools require school nurses to receive the annual influenza vaccine, 73.7 percent reported having been vaccinated for the 2010/2011 influenza season.

"Findings from this study suggest that most schools are even less prepared for an infectious disease disaster, such as a pandemic, compared to a natural disaster or other type of event," Terri Rebmann said in a statement.

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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