Pandemic Flu Preparations

By the end of last school year, swine flu and its effects had made a full circle through the news. Schools quickly set plans in place to deal with a possible pandemic, a vaccine was put in the works, and then everyone went on summer break. One month in to many college terms, the news of cases of the H1N1 virus have started spreading again. With a vaccine expected to be available starting only in October (and the vaccine itself not providing resistance until about a month after it has been administered) and the bulk of infections occurring in younger people — people around the mid-20s, a little above, a little below — what are colleges and universities doing to help prevent the spread of the virus?

Online Information
The federal government has two good resources for colleges, one from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the other from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The CDC’s site offers guidance for responding to the H1N1 virus on campuses, as well as a toolkit for flu preparation. The HHS site offers comprehensive information from Webcasts and news briefing to simple prevention tips, including the correct way to sneeze and cough to minimize the spread of the virus.

Another online resource is the American College Health Association’s ACHA Pandemic Influenza Surveillance site. This site provides weekly as well as cumulative case data for influenza like (ILI) illnesses on college and university campuses, along with campus response guidelines for responding to and mitigating strategies for ILI outbreaks.

Many colleges and universities have also set up their own Websites to offer information to students about the school’s efforts to curb the spread of the H1N1 virus, measures students can take to prevent the virus, and what to do if a student does get the virus.

Arizona State University (ASU) has a Pandemic Influenza Center with FAQs, information about ASU’s 24-hour H1N1 flue hotline, and a Twitter feed from ASU Alert (asualert) with links to the latest information from the University and government agencies. ASU’s health sciences librarians have also developed an information page about the H1N1 virus (http://libguides.asu.edu/h1n1flu).

Florida State University’s H1N1 Website, from the Thagard Student Health Center, details general information and signs and symptoms of the virus as well as resources for students, parents, and faculty and staff.

Yale University’s Emergency Management’s H1N1 Novel Influenza site offers contact information to find out more about the virus and what to do for both students and employees, as well as information for seasonal flu clinics. Yale also has messages from University leadership to guides for students living on campus or visiting the campus, and for employees.

Ohio State University’s (OSU) flu information Website offers news and updates from the University as well as a blog with actions OSU is taking to help prevent the spread of the virus. Most recently, there was a “flu kit” assembly to distribute flu kits to students on Move-in Day.

Around the Campus
At some universities, signs are posted to remind students to wash their hands. Hand sanitizing stations have also popped up on campuses — an easy way to promote good hygiene among busy college students.

Many schools are suggesting that students who live on campus and do have the virus should stay in their dorm rooms during the duration of the illness — some are even delivering food to the students rather than have the students come out to public spaces. Other universities are asking students keep an eye on each other and bring food and other supplies to students, so the sick students can stay in their dorm rooms.

If the students do live close to home, it has been suggested that these students head back to their parents’ homes while sick.

A September 5 Boston Globe article noted that some colleges are also considering creating sick bays if the number of students with the H1N1 virus swells.

Closing a campus is a last resort for colleges and universities.

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