Federal Government Issues Flu Guidelines for Child-Care Providers

By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 5, 2009

Day-care centers and other facilities responsible for young children should ensure that their employees get vaccinated against both the seasonal flu and the swine flu, federal health officials said Friday.

Parents and other caregivers should also watch their children or charges closely for any signs of the flu and keep youngsters at home if they are sick during the upcoming flu season, ensuring that they do not return until at least 24 hours after their fever has gone, officials said.

The advice for the nation's estimated 360,000 early-childhood caretakers, including day-care centers and Head Start programs, was the latest government move aimed at reducing the spread of the swine flu this fall and winter. Officials previously released guidelines for students in elementary, middle and high schools, for colleges and universities, and for businesses.

The guidelines for day-care centers and other early-childhood programs mirror those recommendations.

Such programs should have surfaces cleaned thoroughly, have children wash their hands and cough into their elbows, and send home children who are sick, officials said. Parents should wash their children's hands diligently and encourage them to cough into their elbows, keep sick children at home, get those 6 months and older vaccinated and get themselves vaccinated if their children are younger than that, officials said.

"Vaccination is our best barrier," said Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary.

Parents should also make contingency plans for their children in case their day-care center or other provider closes because too many children or staff members get sick.

"That means parents and child-care providers have to do some planning right now," Sebelius said.

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