Dear Parents + Carers,
RE: Suspected Influenza at School
This letter is to inform you that we have received reports of a number of children absent from the school last week with a flu-like illness and following advice from Public Health England, we consider it likely that a flu (influenza) virus is circulating within the school. This is to be expected at this time of year and is in-line with what we are seeing in the local community.
It is important that your child stays at home if they have flu-like symptoms. Your child should not attend school and not mix with others outside the home if they have symptoms. Those who do not have symptoms of flu can undertake their usual activities outside of the home as normal.
General infection control practices and good hand hygiene can help to reduce transmission of all viruses, including flu. This includes:
Covering the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, using a tissue when possible.
Disposing of dirty tissues promptly and carefully.
Washing hands frequently with soap and water to reduce the spread of flu virus from hands to face or to other people.
Cleaning hard surfaces (e.g. door handles) using a normal cleaning product.
Most children will have a relatively mild illness, and will recover at home without needing treatment. However, if your child has a complex medical history (including risk groups below) it is important that your GP promptly assesses your child if they develop any of the following symptoms: sudden fever (38C or greater) and flu-like symptoms (cough, sore throat, runny nose, limb/joint pain or headache). They will then advise whether your child should receive antiviral treatment. Children in these medical risk groups who have not had a flu vaccine this winter may also be assessed by their GP in case they would benefit from a course of preventative antiviral medication.
I have attached a fact sheet for your information. If you would like further advice on flu please either contact NHS 111 or visit nhs.uk/conditions/flu.
Risk groups for complications of influenza:
Chronic (long-term) lung/airway diseases (including severe asthma requiring steroids)
Chronic heart disease
Chronic kidney disease
Chronic liver disease
Chronic neurological disease, or learning disability
Weakened immune system due to disease (such as HIV/AIDS) or treatment (such as cancer treatment)
No spleen or dysfunction of the spleen
Morbid obesity (BMI ≥ 40)
What is influenza?
Influenza or 'flu' is a viral infection that mainly affects the nose, throat and the lungs.
There are two main types of flu that cause infection; influenza A and influenza B.
Influenza A is usually a more severe infection than influenza B.
Influenza B tends to occur most often in children but it can affect any age.
Who catches influenza?
Anyone can catch flu; the highest rates of infection are usually in school age children. Most influenza infections occur during the winter months.
The amount and severity of illness occurring each year varies, depending on the particular strain that is circulating.
How do you catch influenza?
Influenza is mostly caught by breathing in air containing the virus when an infected person coughs/sneezes or by touching a surface where the virus has landed and then touching your mouth or nose.
How infectious is influenza?
Influenza is infectious and can spread rapidly from person to person. Some strains of virus are more infectious than others, or cause more severe illness.
What is influenza like?
Influenza is worse than an ordinary cold. It usually starts suddenly with a high fever over 38.0°C which can last for 3-4 days. A dry cough, headaches and chills are common as are general muscle aches and pains. A stuffy nose, sneezing and a sore throat can also be present. The fever tends to decrease after the second day when a stuffy nose and a sore throat become more noticeable. Some children may also feel sick (nausea), or have diarrhoea. Tiredness can sometimes last 2-3 weeks.
How serious is influenza?
Most people recover completely from influenza in a matter of days or a week. For others, for example older people, pregnant women, those with other illnesses (such as chest or heart disease, or diabetes) and newborn babies, influenza can be a serious illness.
Serious illness from influenza can be caused by the virus itself causing a severe lung infection, through a secondary bacterial infection of the airways or lungs, or by worsening of any underlying long-term medical condition such as heart disease.
How is influenza treated?
Most people with the flu need no special treatment. Influenza is caused by a virus so antibiotics do not help unless there is a complication. Occasionally a special 'antiviral' medicine is prescribed for people in the ‘at risk’ groups or whose illness is getting worse.
Someone who is ill with flu should keep warm, rest and drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration. · Paracetamol can be given to reduce fever and aches. Aspirin must NOT be given to children under 16 years of age as it has been associated with the development of a severe neurological disorder called Reye's syndrome.
It is best to stay at home while feeling ill with influenza as this reduces the chance of spreading the infection to others.
Can you prevent influenza?
Vaccination can protect against flu. Each year a new vaccine has to be produced to protect against the flu viruses expected to be in circulation that winter and to boost the immune response.
The vaccine is very safe. Side effects are usually mild, such as a sore arm.
The vaccine is given in the autumn before the flu season begins. It is not recommended for everyone, but it is advisable for those likely to spread infection or be more seriously affected by influenza. This includes:
All 2-4 year olds and children in school years 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
People of any age with chronic heart, lung, neurological, metabolic disorders (including severe asthma and diabetes), kidney problems or a lowered immune system due to treatment or disease
Everyone aged 65 years and over
People under the age of 65 years who are not in one of the groups mentioned above are not offered the vaccine as part of the national programme.
This list is not exhaustive and if anyone is unsure if they should have the vaccine, then they should discuss with their GP.
How can you reduce the risk of influenza transmission in schools?
Advise that children and staff that are ill stay away from school – they should remain off until they are symptom free.
Wash hands frequently with soap and water and dry thoroughly.
Avoid touching surfaces (such as door handles) and then the face.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and dispose of used/dirty tissues in a bin – “Catch it, Bin it, Kill it”.
How soon should a child be back at school after influenza?
Influenza is most infectious when symptoms start until about 3-5 days later.