University Prepared for Possible Flu Outbreak

Officials are emphasizing preventive steps to reduce the chances of a flu outbreak on campus.

<p>Hand washing can help prevent an outbreak of flu. Photo by Peter Morenus</p>
Hand washing can help prevent an outbreak of flu. Photo by Peter Morenus

University President Michael Hogan and UConn health and safety staff are urging the University community to take rigorous preventive measures to help reduce the chances of an H1N1 “swine flu” outbreak on campus.

Recommendations for students, faculty, and staff include getting a flu shot, frequent hand-washing or use of hand sanitizers, avoiding those who are ill, and staying home from work or class when sick. A list of recommendations can be found on Student Health Services’ H1N1 flu webpage, which will be updated regularly. Students and others in the University community are encouraged to bookmark the site, which includes flu prevention advice from the Centers for Disease Control, so that they have it readily available.

“Though they may seem basic, following these simple practices can make a big difference in promoting good health and avoiding the flu,” says Michael Kurland, the director of Student Health Services. “However, should students become ill, the University has a full medical staff on campus who are able to advise and care for sick students.”

Now at the outset of flu season, Hogan says the University is well-prepared for a potential flu outbreak.

“The good news is that UConn already has a comprehensive plan for addressing a possible influenza pandemic,” he says. “Last spring, when the H1N1 flu first began appearing, our pandemic planning committee mobilized and worked throughout the summer to ensure that our plan is up-to-date. At this point, we are focused on prevention.”

Kurland says students are encouraged to be prepared by purchasing hand sanitizer, Tylenol, Advil, thermometers, and other supplies. To supplement this, the University has purchased and will distribute to students limited supplies including hand sanitizer, tissues, fever-reducing medications, thermometers, and surgical masks (for use by those who are ill, to help prevent germs from spreading).

<p>Supplies of flu vaccine at Student Health Services. Photo by Peter Morenus</p>
Supplies of flu vaccine at Student Health Services. Photo by Peter Morenus

Faculty and staff who experience flu symptoms – fever, muscle ache, sore throat, headache, cough – should consult their healthcare provider and stay home from work until they have recovered – at least 24 hours with no flu symptoms without the use of fever-reducing medication. Students who are ill should stay home from class and work and call their healthcare provider or Student Health Services at (860) 486-3427 and follow any medical advice they receive.

“Since nearly 90 percent of UConn students live within a reasonable driving distance of their family home, if they do become ill, we ask that students return home until they have recovered,” says Kurland. “If students are ill and can’t return home, they should contact Student Health Services, stay home from class, and try to avoid contact with their roommates until they are well again.”

Kurland adds that if a student’s roommate becomes ill and the healthy student lives within driving distance, if possible, they should consider commuting to and from campus until the roommate is well.

As usual, students are expected to work with their professors to make up any work missed due to illness.

The University’s human resources department will advise supervisors and managers regarding personnel issues and interpretation of collective bargaining agreements, and will be working with the unions, and in consultation with the state’s Office of Labor Relations, when handling flu-related issues.

The University is working with the state health department to closely monitor flu conditions.

“If this year’s flu season becomes severe,” says Hogan, “the University may take additional steps to prevent the spread of the virus, in accordance with our own plan and the advice of health experts.”

Any new information or changes to the UConn flu-prevention strategy will be quickly communicated to the University community and posted on the H1N1 website. An update was issued by University officials on Sept. 10.