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AISA Promotes Ebola Preparedness
by Meadow Hilley 22-Oct-14
First reported in March 2014, the current Ebola epidemic has now swept across large swaths of West Africa, killing over 4,500 in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and to a lesser extent, Nigeria. While the total number of reported cases is currently over 9,200, the World Health Organization warns that this figure could reach 20,000 by November if efforts to halt the spread of the virus are not redoubled. In response to the crisis, the Association of International Schools in Africa (AISA) developed a number of preparedness documents, which it has shared within its member network and beyond. Among them is an Ebola-specific decision protocol for infectious disease management, which outlines the recommended course of action according to indicators determining risk level. Level One, in which no human cases are reported within a school’s environment, is considered low-risk; at this stage, disseminating information to students and parents is key, while academic and extra-curricular activities continue as scheduled. Level Two, labeled “Precautionary,” is signaled when an increasing number of possible cases are reported in the school’s environment. Any students exhibiting symptoms are sent home at this stage, the cleaning staff is instructed to sanitize more broadly and regularly, and good hygiene processes are emphasized among students and staff, among other measures. When an increase in human cases is noted, along with greater evidence of travel and access restrictions, Level Three—or “Action”—is reached and a series of protocols are put in place, even as the regular academic program is pursued. An online learning system, such as Moodle, is activated to provide work for students who choose to or must remain home. Field trips and most community events are cancelled, and the administration meets regularly with staff to go over virus status and procedures. No school wants to arrive at Level Four, or “Mobilization,” in which the virus has spread within the school’s immediate community. School closure is recommended at this stage, to be ultimately determined by the Board, though continued regular communication with students is encouraged through online learning systems and email. In addition to this detailed decision protocol for infectious disease management, AISA has also drafted a sample letter to parents, meant to address their concerns and explain precautionary measures taken by signatory schools. The association has also widely disseminated the CDC’s infographic on Ebola, to which each school can add its logo. Every school in the affected region is encouraged to adapt these materials to its specific context, and to thoroughly discuss these protocols with its crisis response team.
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10/24/2014 - Jeff Trudeau
One of the issues we dealt with, as one of the first schools ever to have to face this issue was "timing."
The first documented cases of this were in March, far away from the capital of the country.
In early June, three weeks before school was to close for the summer, cases began to "appear" in the capital where our school is based. We finished out the school year.
Over the summer (and this -- was a good thing for the community, as most were on holiday) it spiked in the capital and we delayed the opening of the school year.
At present we are still not open. However, we were at the AISA level "low risk," ... but close to vacation, and rode it out. We are lucky that summer was close, as being the first ... we may not have know how to respond if this were to occur at the start of a term, and not the end.
10/24/2014 - Sean Goudie
I think it is important to note that although the above decision protocol was sent out by AISA to schools in Africa, some of us felt that substantial changes had to be made to a protocol that appeared better suited for avian flu' then it does for a situation like EVD.
The trigger points mentioned in Meadow Hilley's article are not the trigger points that our school in Burkina Faso has adopted. We intend to close, at least temporarily, not once "” the virus has spread within the school’s immediate community. " but as soon as we have even one confirmed case.