Board updates district’s infectious disease policy

In the case of an outbreak, the Kenai Peninsula Borough schools will call on the superintendent to work with health organizations to develop a plan of attack.

The Board of Education approved a policy change to clarify who would be responsible for the organization and response to an epidemic within the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, at its July 6 meeting.

“It is not a huge change, but more to clarify and make sure the policy is up to date,” said Health Services Coordinator Carmen Magee.

“If something were to occur we would need somebody to be in charge.”

Superintendent Sean Dusek will coordinate with the State of Alaska’s Section of Epidemiology to figure out how to disseminate information to the public in the event of an outbreak, and who to work with locally, Magee said.

Magee said the decision to update came somewhat in response to the recent measles outbreak that has been sweeping through the Lower 48.

According to the department of epidemiology, the United States is experiencing a record number of measles cases this year.

The Central for Disease Control and Prevention announced 397 cases nationwide, between January 1 and June 6.

The department of epidemiology announced on June 9 the first case of measles to occur in Alaska in more than a decade. A person who had recently traveled to Asia developed a rash days after their May 31 arrival in Fairbanks, and was later confirmed positive for the virus on June 9.

The department of epidemiology’s most recently announced site for potential public exposure was confirmed to be the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital Emergency Department on June 6.

“With enough of a population, and enough exposure, you could have an outbreak,” Magee said.

The school district and board have been in the process of updating policy, Magee said. The last change to board policy on infectious diseases was in 2004.

While a local outbreak is unlikely, it is important to have a plan in place, Magee said.

The policy also states the superintendent will conform a plan with “public health statutes and regulations.”

The school district is not required to follow state legislation, but will incorporate procedures that the state has developed, she said.

There is a significant portion of students who are not immunized at local schools, which could contribute to the spread of a disease.

There also may be new illnesses that none of the population has been immunized for that crop up, Magee said.

“We are going to follow what is going to be the most effective,” Magee said. “We want to keep our schools and community safe.”

Any response plans or developments will be presented before the board, according to the policy.

Reach Kelly Sullivan at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com

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