Influenza Surveillance Protocol and Frequently Asked Questions
New reporting system
Beginning with the 2023-2024 school year, K-12 schools will use the REDCap survey Respiratory Illness and Gastrointestinal Illness Outbreak Reporting Form to notify the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) of respiratory illness and/or gastrointestinal (GI) illness outbreaks at their school. This combined illness reporting survey will take the place of the existing reporting method for influenza-like illness.
The goal of the combined illness reporting system is to lessen the burden on reporters. Recognizing that COVID-19 continues to evolve and circulate with other respiratory illnesses, combining the reporting for multiple respiratory illnesses under one threshold will allow MDH to monitor overall respiratory illness trends in school settings.
When filling out the form, reporters may choose to complete only the respiratory illness section, only the GI section, or both. It depends on what sort of illness is occurring at the school at the time of the report. Reporters may also request technical assistance from MDH if they have questions or concerns regarding the respiratory and/or GI illness at their school.
When to report
School health professionals should report respiratory illness outbreaks to MDH when 10% of their student population is absent from school on a given day with respiratory illness symptoms and/or a respiratory illness diagnosis. This threshold applies to all school levels. There is no longer a separate threshold for elementary schools.
Schools are encouraged to report this information to MDH as soon as possible during business hours.
Data on respiratory illness outbreaks in schools will be posted at Weekly Influenza and Respiratory Activity: Statistics.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Thank you to Minnesota school health professionals for your work in reporting to the Minnesota Department of Health. Because of your partnership, we can better understand respiratory illness trends in school settings. We would like to emphasize that the goals are to understand overall activity level and geographic spread - not to count every absence. Here are some frequently asked questions and their answers.
Is this reporting required?
Schools are required to report certain illnesses, like COVID-19, influenza, some GI illnesses, under Minnesota disease reporting rules:
- Reporting of COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 under the Minnesota Communicable Disease Rules, Chapter 4605.7080.
- Infectious Disease Reporting.
- School Health Personnel Immunization and Disease Reporting.
Do I report single cases of reportable diseases with this survey?
No. Please continue to report single cases through your normal process. More information on reportable diseases and how to report can be found at Infectious Disease Reporting.
Do private schools need to do this reporting?
Yes. Public, private, and charter schools should report.
How do I prevent outbreaks of respiratory and GI illness before they occur?
Follow the prevention guidelines found on CDC: Operational Guidance for K-12 Schools and Early Care and Education Programs to Support Safe In-Person Leaning and Outbreaks at Schools, Child Care, and Long-term Care Facilities (GI illness).
Do we still use the influenza like illness (ILI) reporting threshold (e.g., 3 per classroom at the elementary level)?
No. This new respiratory reporting system is taking the place of both ILI and COVID-19 reporting. When 10% of your student enrollment is absent with symptoms of respiratory illness and/or a diagnosis of respiratory illness on a given day, complete this REDCap form: Respiratory Illness and Gastrointestinal Illness Outbreak Reporting. This threshold applies to all school levels. There is no longer a separate threshold for elementary schools.
How often do we report?
- For respiratory illness, submit one report when you reach the 10% student threshold. You do not need to submit a new report for at least two weeks (14 days) after the initial report.
- For GI illness, submit one report each time the GI illness exceeds your established baseline.
What if I don't have a diagnosis, only symptoms?
The reporting threshold is based on symptoms, not a specific diagnosis. If you have a diagnosis, please include it in your submission, but it is not required.
What if we do not collect staff illness information?
The threshold is set up so that it is dependent on student illness. If staff illness is known, we ask for that information to be included when you report for student illness, but we recognize that schools may not always know why staff are out on a given day.