The Grand Council of the Crees

Prevention of Influenza A (H1N1) For Public Gatherings

Posted: 2009-08-03

Purpose

  1. Limit the spread of influenza A (H1N1) in the region.
  2. Protect people with certain health conditions from contracting influenza A (H1N1).

Background

A large public gathering refers to an assembly or grouping of many people in one place.  Such gatherings can include church services, sporting events, concerts, social and cultural celebrations, weddings, conferences, and other similar activities attended by relatively large groups of people.  This interim guidance does not attempt to define such events in terms of numbers of people in attendance; rather, the focus is on community situations in which crowding is likely to occur.  In addition, these recommendations do not distinguish between public gatherings held indoors and those held outdoors, because differences in novel influenza A (H1N1) virus transmission patterns in these two settings are not known. 

In crowded settings, social distancing (that is, measures that increase the physical space between people and reduce their frequency of close contact) is difficult to maintain.  Moreover, at public gathering events that are celebratory in nature (such as weddings, graduation ceremonies), participants frequently have social personal contact (like handshaking and hugging).  As a result, there may be increased risk for spread of novel influenza A (H1N1) virus among attendees of such events and subsequent spread of illness in the community or in communities to where attendees return.  The recommendations below are intended to reduce the spread of influenza infection in communities.

Interim Recommendations

Decisions regarding large public gatherings in the context of this novel influenza A (H1N1) outbreak should be made based on local influenza activity and other local considerations.  However, given the current information on disease severity and spread, it is recommended that:

  1. Persons (adults and children) with influenza-like illness (ILI) (i.e. fever with either cough or sore throat) should stay home for 7 days after the onset of illness (avoid crowds, social gatherings and public gatherings).
  2. Persons who are at high risk of complications from novel influenza A (H1N1) infection (for example, pregnant women, persons with certain chronic medical conditions, children less than 5 years, persons 65 or older) should avoid public gatherings in communities where novel influenza A virus is circulating.
  3. All persons should be reminded to use appropriate respiratory and hand hygiene precautions (washing hands regularly with soap and water or sanitizing hand gel).
  4. Event organizers help reduce the risk for novel influenza A (H1N1) infection by making widely available at the event hand washing facilities with soap and running water, hand sanitizer, and tissues. 
  5. Event organizers should make sure that commonly touched surfaces and items (e.g. door handles, stair rails etc.) are cleaned regularly even when not visibly soiled.
  6. Event organizers should make sure that when serving food that food handlers or food service people have access to clean water and soap or hand sanitizing gel and use it frequently.  They should limit the number of people who handle or serve food and make sure they observe strict hygiene methods.
  7. Event organizers provide alternative options and venues for participation (e.g., radio broadcasts) to reduce crowding.

Large public gatherings offer a good opportunity to deliver key educational messages about measures attendees can take to help reduce the spread of novel influenza A (H1N1) infection.  Event organizers should consider communicating to attendees about the need to stay home if ill and to use good hygiene practices while at the event.  Such information may be communicated through a variety of means such as letters, newspaper notices, public service announcements, web site postings, and text messages.