University Prepares for Possible Flu Outbreak

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

With the announcement by the World Health Organization that a global pandemic of the Novel Influenza A (H1N1) virus is under way, Saint Joseph’s has been developing plans in the event of an outbreak on campus.

Students who become ill will be encouraged to go home to recuperate, if that is feasible, according to Mary-Elaine Perry, Ed.D., assistant vice president for student life and chair of the Critical Incident Response Team. However, the University is also setting up alternative housing for sick students. The healthy roommate of an infected student may be encouraged to move to other accommodations, she added.

Masks, gloves and hand sanitizers have been distributed to residence area coordinators, the Student Health Center and the Office of Public Safety. Hand sanitizers are also being installed in campus buildings, computer labs and the library.

“We also have an extra supply of bottled water on hand,” said Perry. Any student who visits the health center with flu symptoms will leave with a bottle of water – a reminder to consume extra fluids.

In an email message to faculty and staff, the Office of Human Resources distributed the University’s protocol, which incorporates the guidelines developed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Employees who are ill should immediately consult their health care provider and stay at home until they are fever-free for 24 hours without the aid of a fever-reducing medication. At the onset of symptoms, employees are advised to contact their supervisor or department head. Upon returning to work, they will be required to certify in writing that they have met the requirements of the protocol. In some instances, a department head may give the employee the option of working from home.

According to the CDC, symptoms of the H1N1virus are similar to those of seasonal flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some infected with the virus have also reported diarrhea and vomiting. Flu viruses are commonly spread through coughing or sneezing.

To help prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus, the CDC makes the following recommendations:

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective. Try to avoid close contact with sick people. To stay informed, monitor the CDC website. Campus-related information for University faculty, staff, administrators and students will be posted on MySJU and sent via email.

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