Influenza in education and care services
Children are more likely to contract the influenza virus and young children are at increased risk of serious illness and hospitalisation.
Influenza is highly contagious and can be spread to others for 24 hours before symptoms start until a week after the start of symptoms. In young children the infectious period can be longer and up to 10 days.
Schools, boarding schools and early childhood education and care services can facilitate influenza transmission due to large numbers of children being in confined spaces for extended periods of time.
To prevent the spread of influenza:
- encourage staff vaccination
- promote hand hygiene and cough etiquette
- ensure appropriate exclusion of unwell staff and children from school or childcare.
Annual vaccination is the most effective way of protecting against influenza and its complications, and is recommended for any person over 6 months of age.
In schools and early childhood education and care, vaccination is strongly recommended for:
- people who work with children
- people who are at increased risk of complications from influenza infection including pregnant women and those who are medically at risk
- all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from 6 months
- all children aged 6 months to less than 5 years.
The free vaccine is available through general practice and other childhood immunisation providers from mid-April.
Promote good hygiene
To limit opportunities for contact with the influenza virus:
- promote effective hand hygiene and cough etiquette
- wash hands regularly with soap and water, and dry thoroughly afterwards
- alcohol-based hand rub is effective if hands are not visibly dirty or greasy (should be kept out of reach of children and only used with adult supervision)
- cover coughs and sneezes, preferably with a disposable tissue
- have tissues readily available
- throw used tissues immediately into the bin
- regularly clean classroom facilities: desks, chairs, door handles, taps, computers and equipment
- ensure staff, volunteers and children with flu-like symptoms stay at home until symptom free.