Majority of US Schools not ready for next pandemic, researchers say

September 17, 2012
Terri Rebmann, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor at SLU's Institute for Biosecurity. Credit: Riya V. Anandwala, Medical Center Communications at Saint Louis University

Many U.S. schools are not prepared for bioterrorism attacks, outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases or pandemics, despite the recent 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic that resulted in more than 18,000 deaths worldwide, Saint Louis University researchers say.

The study, led by Terri Rebmann, Ph.D., associate professor at SLU's Institute for , surveyed about 2000 nurses working in elementary, middle and high schools across 26 states. The findings reveal that only 48 percent of schools address preparedness and only 40 percent of schools have updated their plans since the 2009 H1N1 pandemic that spread illnesses in more than 214 countries.

"There is a lot of research that shows influenza spreads quickly in schools because it's a communicable disease and kids interact closely," Rebmann said. "Schools need to have a written pandemic plan in order to be prepared to put interventions into place quickly when an event occurs."

The study suggests that every school should review and update its pandemic preparedness plan annually and address gaps in infectious disease emergency planning. Schools also need to coordinate these plans with the local and regional disaster response agencies, and organize disaster drills and exercises, including holding drills that involve an infectious disease scenario.

Published in the , the study also found that 44 percent of schools do not participate in community surveillance that tracks the presence of a disease based upon symptoms reported by area residents. These efforts are coordinated through local public health departments to assess indicators of .

One reason for lack in participation is that many communities may not have a surveillance program that uses school data as an indicator, said Rebmann. Another reason is that several schools might share a nurse, which can lead to inconsistent, inaccurate or unreported data.

In order to have a regular and strong pandemic preparedness program, Rebmann suggests that school nurses should be involved in building and assessing the plan.

"Health care professionals can best inform school administrators about unique aspects of pandemic planning that need to be included in school disaster plans," she said. "Results from this study indicate that better prepared schools were ones that involved their nurses in the disaster planning committee. The school nurse is the best person in a school district to know about infection control and be able to make recommendations about the best interventions to implement during a biological event."

Explore further: Most U.S. schools unprepared for pandemics: study

Related Stories

Most U.S. schools unprepared for pandemics: study

August 30, 2012
(HealthDay)—Many U.S. schools are not prepared for another pandemic, according to a new study.

School closures slow spread of pH1N1: study

February 6, 2012
Closing elementary and secondary schools can help slow the spread of infectious disease and should be considered as a control measure during pandemic outbreaks, according to a McMaster University led study.

H1N1 study shows closing schools, other measures effective

May 24, 2011
Schools were closed, restaurants shuttered and large public gatherings cancelled.

Children's hospitals not equipped to handle pandemics

August 23, 2011
A new study of children's hospitals nationwide has found them underequipped to handle a major surge of patients in the event of a pandemic, and urges health care institutions and government agencies to immediately review ...

Recommended for you

Exploring how herpes simplex virus changes when passed between family members

October 22, 2017
A new study explores how herpes simplex virus might change when passed from one individual to another, information that may prove useful in future development of therapeutics and vaccines. This rare glimpse into a transmission ...

Pneumonia vaccine under development provides 'most comprehensive coverage' to date, alleviates antimicrobial concerns

October 20, 2017
In 2004, pneumonia killed more than 2 million children worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. By 2015, the number was less than 1 million.

Newly discovered viral marker could help predict flu severity in infected patients

October 20, 2017
Flu viruses contain defective genetic material that may activate the immune system in infected patients, and new research published in PLOS Pathogens suggests that lower levels of these molecules could increase flu severity.

H7N9 influenza is both lethal and transmissible in animal model for flu

October 19, 2017
In 2013, an influenza virus that had never before been detected began circulating among poultry in China. It caused several waves of human infection and in late 2016, the number of people to become sick from the H7N9 virus ...

Flu simulations suggest pandemics more likely in spring, early summer

October 19, 2017
New statistical simulations suggest that Northern Hemisphere flu pandemics are most likely to emerge in late spring or early summer at the tail end of the normal flu season, according to a new study published in PLOS Computational ...

New insights into herpes virus could inform vaccine development

October 18, 2017
A team of scientists has discovered new insights into the mechanisms of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection, as well as two antibodies that block the virus' entry into cells. The findings, published in Proceedings of the National ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.