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Preventing Spread of Infections in K-12 Schools

Schools provide safe, supportive environments, routines, and important services that support student health and well-being. Schools should have plans in place that can help reduce illness and illness-related absenteeism by preventing the spread of common infections. This guidance is designed to maximize school attendance and its benefits for all students, while also preventing the spread of infectious diseases.

  • Schools can help prevent infections caused by common childhood respiratory or stomach viruses by using and encouraging everyday actions.
  • If illnesses are spreading in the community, additional actions can be taken by schools to prevent infections from spreading.
  • Schools can prepare for outbreaks or a pandemic by ensuring that they have an emergency operations plan with an infectious disease section, which outlines the actions necessary to reduce the impact of the outbreak.

This new guidance consolidates and simplifies previous recommendations intended specifically for K-12 school settings. It replaces previous guidance that was for COVID-19 and influenza in schools, is aligned with CDC’s respiratory virus guidance, and is based on scientific studies that showed what works best to prevent the spread of many common respiratory and stomach infections. These strategies can also reduce the spread of many other infectious diseases in schools.

On CDC’s website, there is additional guidance for several other illnesses (e.g., strep throat, hand-foot-mouth disease, norovirus, head lice, pink eye, impetigo, scabies, measles, and molluscum contagiosum) that schools can use to prevent specific infections. Information on diseases from mosquitos (e.g., West Nile Virus, dengue) is also available.

Schools should work with their local public health partners, and engage parents/caregivers and other community partners, to create their emergency operations plan that includes a section on infectious diseases. School and public health officials can promote learning and health for all students and staff by implementing comprehensive prevention strategies to keep students, staff, families, and school communities healthy and provide supportive environments for in-person learning. Federal civil rights laws may require that schools provide reasonable modifications or accommodations in various circumstances. Schools must provide reasonable modifications or reasonable accommodations, when necessary, to ensure equal access to in-person learning for students with disabilities during increased infectious illness activity. Nothing in this guidance is intended to detract from or supersede those laws.

This guidance also highlights the importance of clear and consistent communication between school administrators, parents and caregivers, and staff. Providing clear and accessible communication to families and staff is required for the success of many strategies described in this guidance. Communication strategies should consider the needs of people with limited English proficiency who require language services, and individuals with disabilities who require accessible formats.

school administrators

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