Prevent the spread of flu and flu-like illnesses

Feb. 7, 2020

Dear Henrico families:

Influenza activity in Virginia is widespread and is affecting our community. In multiple schools in Henrico County, children have become sick with influenza (“the flu”) and/or influenzalike illnesses.

Influenza is a virus that can live in a person’s respiratory tract. Thus, flu and other viruslike illnesses are usually spread via direct contact with an infected person who is sneezing and coughing, or from contact with hands or surfaces contaminated with nose and throat secretions from an infected person.

We recommend the following infection control measures to prevent the spread of these illnesses in the school population:   

  • Encourage good hygienic practices, rest and nutrition:
    • Wash hands with soap and water often, especially when exposed to someone who is sick.
    • Cover your mouth and nose with disposable tissues when coughing or sneezing, or use your inner arm (elbow crease). Do not use your hands.
    • Dispose of facial tissues that contain nasal secretions after each use. Wash hands afterwards.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
    • Routinely clean commonly touched surfaces, toys and other shared objects as recommended.
  • Stay home if ill
    • Individuals should stay home from school, work and errands when sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    • Students or staff experiencing fevers should remain home until they are fever-free for a full 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing medication.
  • Get vaccinated:
    • The single best way to protect against flu is to get vaccinated each year.
    • Influenza vaccination is usually 70-90% effective in preventing the flu in healthy persons.
    • Receiving flu vaccine later in the season can still provide important protection since flu viruses can circulate as late as May.
    • Most individuals will be protected against influenza within two weeks after vaccination.
  • What about antiviral medications?
    • Antiviral medications may also be used to prevent or treat the flu. Talk with  your health care provider for more information.
  • Learn the facts about  influenza awareness.

 In addition to influenza, some gastrointestinal illnesses that cause vomiting and diarrhea are also circulating in our community. The most common cause of gastrointestinal illness in the school setting is norovirus, which causes illness lasting usually one to three days. Norovirus can be spread by consuming contaminated food or liquids; touching contaminated surfaces or objects and then touching one’s mouth; or having direct contact with another person who is infected, and then touching one’s mouth.

We recommend the following infection control measures to prevent the spread of norovirus in the school population:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water, especially after using the restroom. 
  • Routinely clean commonly touched surfaces, toys and other shared objects with household chlorine bleach-based cleaners.
  • To avoid spreading the illness to others, children and staff members who are ill with diarrheal symptoms should be kept home and excluded from school or other group activities while they have diarrhea or vomiting, and for 24 hours after the illness ends

Henrico County Public Schools continues to work closely with the Henrico Health Department and the Virginia Department of Education as we monitor and implement recommendations from the Virginia Health Department and Centers for Disease Control to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff members. If you have any questions, please contact the Henrico Health Department at 804-501-5216 or HCPS School Health Services at 804-343-6504.


Henrico County Public Schools