Health Services Update on H1N1 and the Flu Season
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 4 main ways you may keep from getting sick with the flu:
- Practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow or shoulder; not into your hands.
- Stay home or at your place of residence if you are sick for at least 24 hours after you no longer have a fever (100 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius) or signs of a fever (have chills, feel very warm, have a flushed appearance, or are sweating). This should be determined without the use of fever-reducing medications (any medicine that contains ibuprofen or acetaminophen). Staying away from others while sick can prevent others from getting sick too. Ask a roommate, friend, or family member to check up on you and to bring you food and supplies if needed.
- Talk to your health care provider to find out if you should be vaccinated for seasonal flu and/or 2009 H1N1 flu. Information about 2009 H1N1 flu vaccination can be found at: www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination. Information about seasonal flu vaccine can be found at: www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm.
Q. Why should institutions of higher education be concerned about the flu?
Students, faculty, and staff can get sick with flu, and institutions may act as a “point of spread.” Students, faculty, and staff can easily spread flu to others in their institutions as well as in the larger community. To date, the highest number of cases of 2009 H1N1 flu have been confirmed among people 5–24 years old. They are also at risk of getting seasonal influenza.
As a parent of a student who attends an institution, should I bring them home?
If possible, residential students with flu-like illness whose families live relatively close to the campus should go home to self-isolate. They should return home in a way that limits contact with others as much as possible. For example, travel by private car or taxi would be preferable over use of public transportation. They should stay away from other people until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever (100 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius) or signs of a fever (have chills, feel very warm, have a flushed appearance, or are sweating).
This should be determined without the use of fever-reducing medications (any medicine that contains ibuprofen or acetaminophen).
If flu severity increases, students at higher risk for flu complications including students, faculty, and staff with certain chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or asthma, or who are pregnant may consider staying home while flu transmission is high in their institution community. Currently, the CDC is not recommending removing healthy students from their Institutions.
The 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine should be available in the fall of 2009. Certain groups at higher risk for complications from this flu are recommended to get the 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine when it first becomes available. These groups include:
- Pregnant women,
- People who live with and care for children younger than 6 months of age,
- Healthcare and emergency medical services personnel,
- People between the ages of 6 months and 24 years (this includes most studentsattending institutions of higher education)
- People ages 25–64 years of age who have chronic health conditions (such as
- Asthma, heart disease, or diabetes) or compromised immune systems.
What steps should I take if my roommate is sick with the flu?
- You should limit your contact with your sick room and try to maintain a distance of 6 feet from him or her.
- If close contact cannot be avoided, your sick roommate should wear a surgical mask, if tolerable, when he or she is around you and other people.
- You should frequently clean commonly-touched surfaces.