On October 23, 2014, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan issued a letter to Superintendents across the United States on the nationwide outbreak of enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), which has been significantly harmful to children. The letter attempts to provide Superintendents with a consolidated list of informative resources to share with parents and community members in order to address their questions regarding not only this outbreak but additionally the Ebola virus as it relates to school-aged children.
The letter begins by stating the alarming reality that almost all of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cases of EV-D68 have been among children, especially those with asthma or a history of wheezing.
In effort to provide parents and community members with information about what they can do to prevent this illness and protect themselves and their families, the letter provides for several resources developed by the CDC and encourages Superintendents to share them and make them more accessible to the public.
Among these resources tailored to EV-D68 are a web feature on what parents need to know, a drop-in newsletter article, a fact sheet for parents, general questions and answers for the public, and an info-graphic on how to prevent one’s child from getting and spreading this virus.
The letter also suggests specific ways that Superintendents can work with their schools to share these resources including printing and sending copies of the fact sheet and info-graphic, emailing parents the link to information on the CDC website, having schools post links to CDC information on their social media accounts, syndicating content from the CDC website, placing the text of the newsletter on school websites, e-newsletters, and other publications that reach parents, and even encouraging local child care facilities and organizations to share the drop-in article or post the fact sheet and/or info-graphic within their facilities.
The letter highlights the recent CDC press release about a new lab test developed that allows for more rapid testing of the EV-D68 specimen. The letter warns that due to the new testing confirmed cases of the virus will appear to have risen over the next 7-10 days when in fact these cases do not actually represent a real-time influx of new cases.
The letter notes that while the EV-D68 season is expected to taper off, flu activity in turn begins to increase in October, and while no vaccinations exist to prevent EV-D68, the best way for parents to stay protected is to get their children, especially those who are 6 months or older, vaccinated against the flu every year.
The letter also provides informative resources specific to the Ebola virus, which has also become widespread. The letter assures the public that control of the Ebola virus is a top national priority and provides a link to resources made available by the Department’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students, which has accessible materials specific to Readiness and Emergency Management of Schools in crisis situations.
The letter concludes by encouraging Superintendents to assist in sharing all these informative resources available to them through the CDC.
Please contact Stan Eisenhammer or Michelle Todd with your communicable disease policy and practice inquires.