School officials field calls about ‘ebola,’ screening of refugee population

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Screenshot 2014-10-16 at 4.11.37 PMA letter sent home to parents by Manchester School Superintendent Dr. Debra Livingston addresses fears manifesting in parents in light of national news about U.S. outbreaks of ebola and enterovirus., specifically fielding questions about screening of the city’s refugee population.

“As always, all of our students are provided with the required assessment(s) as indicated for their individual health-related concern. The Manchester Health Department’s comprehensive Refugee Health Program includes a health screening, physical and immunizations within two weeks of settling in Manchester,” reads Livingston’s response, in part.

According to the most recent figures available from the New Hampshire Refugee Resettlement Country of Origin 2013 census, there are about 243 refugees from Liberia, and about 63 from Sierra Leone, both countries affected by the ebola virus.

You can read the letter in full, posted below.

Dear Manchester School District Family:

I want to offer reassurance that I am hearing your concerns related to potential spread of serious illness in our schools, and I will make sure you have helpful information. We are working closely with the Manchester Health Department and the New Hampshire Department of Education. The school district gets regular communication related to prevention, health risk and resources.

One serious illness in the news is Ebola. The only confirmed cases in the United States have been in Texas. In light of the immigrant population in our schools, we have been asked about the health screening process for refugees. As always, all of our students are provided with the required assessment(s) as indicated for their individual health-related concern. The Manchester Health Department’s comprehensive Refugee Health Program includes a health screening, physical and immunizations within two weeks of settling in Manchester.

You also know that there have been several confirmed cases of Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) in New Hampshire. Enteroviruses are not new and rarely affect adults. In children, EV-D68 typically causes cold-like symptoms, including coughing, runny nose, sneezing, body aches and fever. It is spread like the common cold through close contact with a person who has the virus. Most children who contract the virus require only rest and fluids to recover. Doctors tell us EV-D68 can, however, result in a more severe respiratory illness, especially for children with asthma or other chronic illness.

You can help protect yourself and others from respiratory illnesses if you:

Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds

Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth

Avoid kissing and hugging people who are sick

Avoid sharing cups or eating utensils with others

Use standard disinfection procedures for surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are not effective against enteroviruses, which is why hand washing is so important. Enterovirus D68 does not live long outside the body. Once a surface is dry, it likely does not contain live virus.

If you have symptoms of illness, you should stay home from work and wait at least 24 hours following a fever without the use of anti-fever medication before you return to school.

The Manchester Health Department does not recommend that teachers or students disinfect surfaces due to the potential interaction of chemicals and other negative health outcomes associated with their use. The health department contacted the ARAMARK manager for the school district. They reviewed the use of cleaning and disinfection chemicals in our schools. Regardless of current levels of illness, ARAMARK will be paying special attention to “common use surfaces” in their daily cleaning consistent with State guidelines. They also will ensure that all hand washing facilities are equipped with soap and paper towels.

If you have any concerns or questions, please email or call my office at x122, or call the Manchester

Health Department at 624-6466. We will update you and send along health information as we get it.

Sincerely,

Dr. Debra Livingston, Superintendent of Schools

About Carol Robidoux 5294 Articles
Journalist and editor of ManchesterInkLink.com, a hyperlocal news and information site for Manchester, NH.