University takes precautions for impending flu season
Sniffles and coughs are getting more attention this flu season than those in past years, as the H1N1 virus becomes a household name.
With flu season’s arrival and with the high percentage of swine flu outbreaks, precautions are being made by the University to keep students and campus staff healthy.
The Office of Academic Affairs released a letter, dated Oct. 9, to all faculty members with guidelines to follow in their classrooms. The letter empowers faculty members to ask students to leave class if the student is exhibiting signs of illness, such as coughing. If students do not oblige the request, faculty may call campus police to escort students out of the classroom.
The letter indicates teachers must be willing to make arrangements with those unable to attend class due to health issues.
Student Health Services has taken internal precautions to accommodate an expected influx of sick students.
“Because there is a bigger risk for flu symptoms, we began with education right away,” said Bill Erb, director of Student Health Services.
“We have been heightening our precautions. We stockpiled supplies, like gloves and facemasks and antibacterial solution. We are being a bit more vigilant about cleaning our own areas,” Erb said.
Erb also mentioned that the health center has taken all the precautions set forth by the CDC for higher education student health centers.
The Emergency Preparedness Advisory Committee is also working on a plan that will serve the school if pandemic proportions of the flu occur on campus. The plan is more general so it can be used for any sort of pandemic event, not just the flu.
“It can be used for any pandemic and is something that can be used in a ton of different events; most of the UVU pandemic plan is focused on preparing the school to respond to a huge event wherein the school has to be closed,” Erb said.
Student Government has also played a role in preparing the school by placing information cards about the flu and Opt in messaging around campus.
UVUSA Executive Vice President Richard Portwood said the Opt in messaging service would notify students of any school closures due to the flu or any other emergency.
With all the planning and preparations taken by the University, what can a student do to best prepare for flu season?
“The main thing to do is wash your hands frequently,” said Rebecca Morley, a medical assistant at Student Health Services. Other suggestions are to stay physically active, eat a balanced diet and manage your stress levels healthfully.
Flu shots are still recommended, even though UVU is currently out of vaccines. Morley said 300-400 regular shots were already administered and UVU is on a waiting list for more of the regular vaccine as well as the H1N1 vaccine.
If Student Health Services receives the H1N1 vaccine, there will be regulations on who will qualify to get it. High-risk groups, such as pregnant women, are first priority.
If you do get sick, as a guideline, the University is requesting a seven-day absence from school. With the end of the semester quickly approaching, seven days out of class could be the difference between a pass or fail in some classes.
“I think that is just a guideline for the period of time they can be infectious. If the students don’t have any symptoms, they are usually OK to come back and to resume their normal schedule,” said Ruth Ann Haws, office manager of Student Health Services.
“It’s really helpful to have a good relationship with your teachers to discuss what you may have missed and what you can make up,” said Portwood.
Sore throat and coughing are the leading sympoms of swine flu. Having a moderate fever between 102-103 degrees and runny or congested nose can also indicate the flu. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or lack of appetite.
Students are urged to stay home and limit their contact with others if they are experiencing any of these symptoms.
College students are not necessarily a high-risk group to become seriously ill from swine flu.
“It is typical for college students to not get as much rest or eat healthy. But they are young and have a lot of things on their sides. I don’t know if they are at a higher risk than any other group,” said Haws.
UVU has released numerous documents on swine flu and the steps taken by the University to protect students. All of these documents are available via the school’s Web site and by clicking on the swine flu note on the bulletin board.