New Guidance for Stopping the Spread of Illness in Schools

The CDC aims to maximize student attendance for the next school year.

May 21, 2024

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidance for preventing the spread of infections in kindergarten through 12th grade schools. The guidance includes everyday actions that schools can take to control the spread of respiratory and stomach viruses, such as influenza and norovirus, and bacterial illness, such as strep throat. The CDC guidance is being released for consideration for the 2024–2025 school year and is designed to maximize school attendance.

“This update puts lessons learned into actionable steps schools can follow to keep our kids, teachers, and school staff safe,” said Mandy Cohen, M.D., M.P.H. and CDC director.

The strategies found in the new guidance include:

  • Teach and reinforce proper hand washing and respiratory etiquette.
  • Take steps for cleaner air by improving ventilation in schools. Schools should consider ventilation enhancements and design when undergoing remodeling or when undertaking new building construction to optimize clean air.
  • Clean, sanitize, and disinfect, when appropriate.
  • Promote vaccinations for students and staff.

When children or staff do become ill, additional strategies schools can implement to impede infectious diseases, include:

  • Have staff and students stay home when they are sick. The guidance makes clear what specific symptoms necessitate staying home.
  • When applicable, use personal protective equipment (PPE) for school staff who are caring for sick children.
  • Hand washing, respiratory etiquette, cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting remain important.

If illness activity is elevated, schools can consider implementing additional strategies as part of a layered approach to prevention. These additional strategies depend on several considerations, but include actions such as: wearing masks, increasing distance between healthy students and unwell cohorts, and testing to screen for illness.

The new guidance also recommends updating or developing school emergency operation plans that include infectious disease sections, and establishing and maintaining key partnerships with community health providers.

The new guidance also is consistent with the recently released CDC Respiratory Virus Guidance.

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