Many Schools Unprepared For Next Pandemic

Lauren Williams's picture
Friday, August 31, 2012

During the school day, you leave your children’s health in the hands of the school nurse — but it’s hard to know if they are prepared for everything. Some forms of preparedness training, like fire drills and tornado drills, are mandated in schools.

Yet readiness for infectious outbreaks is surprisingly low. Fewer than half of U.S. schools are prepared for the next pandemic, according to new research.

Biosecurity researchers surveyed approximately 2,000 school nurses at elementary, middle, and high schools about their preparations for pandemics, like swine flu or SARS, and published their results on Thursday in the American Journal of Infection Control.

The results showed that since the swine flu pandemic in 2009, less than half of schools had updated their crisis plans or had developed a plan to address biological events. Only a third of schools had instructed children on how to protect themselves from infection, only a third had stockpiled personal protective equipment, and only half of schools coordinated their relief plans with local and regional agencies.

Almost no schools ever ran school disaster exercises that included infectious disease scenarios. And nearly one in four schools had no staff members who were trained in the disaster plan.

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