Less than half of U.S. schools address pandemic preparedness in their school plan, and only 40 percent have updated their school plan since the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, according to a study published in the September issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, the official publication of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).
A team of researchers from Saint Louis University collected and analyzed survey responses from approximately 2,000 school nurses serving primarily elementary, middle, and high schools in 26 states to ascertain whether schools were prepared for another pandemic, particularly focusing on infectious disease disasters. 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. School preparedness for all types of disasters, including biological events, is mandated by the U.S. Department of Education.
The team found that less than one-third of schools (29.7 percent) stockpile any personal protective equipment, and nearly a quarter (22.9 percent) have no staff members trained on the school's disaster plan. One-third (33.8 percent) of schools report training students on infection prevention less than once per year. Only 1.5 percent of schools report stockpiling medication in anticipation of another pandemic. On a positive note, although only 2.2 percent of schools require school nurses to receive the annual influenza vaccine, the majority (73.7 percent) reported having been vaccinated for the 2010/2011 season.