By Jess Kusak
As the cool fall weather settles in, with it comes the inevitable: flu season. This year ushers in a heightened sense of precaution, as the H1N1 virus (sometimes referred to as the swine flu) has occurred in various regions of the country over the past months. While the virus is expected to increase in frequency according to health officials, Nevada State College has been taking actions to ensure the campus community is prepared to weather flu season effectively.
“We have placed sanitizers around the campus to encourage good over-all hygiene,” said Buster Neel, NSC Vice President of Finance and Administration. “In addition, our Interim Director of Facilites, Imad Mehanna, is working with Opportunity Village to have workers assist us with additional cleaning of facilities, including such things as wiping down doorknobs and handles,” said Neel.
Neel is also serving on a statewide task force examining the H1N1 issue from a broader perspective, from which the Nevada System of Higher Education can develop policies and procedures.
Recently, the Nevada State Health Division announced it has ordered approximately 28,000 of the 2009 H1N1 vaccine. In compliance with the initial priority groups designated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), health care workers and EMTs will be the first to receive the inhaled vaccine. The inhaled vaccine is approved for healthy individuals between the ages of 2 and 49, however is not approved for pregnant women or children and adults with underlying medical conditions including asthma and diabetes.
On a weekly basis, additional doses of the vaccine will be shipped to state health divisions, local health authorities and health care providers, according to the CDC. Even though there will initially be limited doses available, it is expected the supply will grow over the coming months in order to accommodate anyone wanting to receive the vaccine.
The CDC has set key recommendations for the present level of the H1N1 flu cases. Note that these recommendations may change as the flu season develops.
Recommendations for Commuter Students
Commuter students ill with H1N1 should practice self-isolation (whether at their own home or the home of a friend/relative) and not return to campus until they have recovered.
Commuter students who can utilize distance-learning methods may be able to continue studies even while ill. (This also applies to resident students.)
Recommendations for Faculty, Staff, and Administration
Faculty, staff, and administration suffering from H1N1 should follow the same self-isolation guidelines as students.
Faculty are encouraged not to require doctors notes to excuse absences from class due to illness; administrators are encouraged not to require doctors notes to excuse absences from work. This is due to the CDC’s anticipation that students and employees may not be able to obtain doctors notes in a timely manner after recovering from H1N1 or other illnesses due to the burden on health care facilities.
Facilities administrators should ensure facilities particularly dormitories, classrooms, elevators, dining halls, and other high-contact areas are cleaned frequently.
Administrators and faculty are encouraged to develop distance learning strategies, flextime and remote working arrangements, and other methods of limiting face-to-face contact while maintaining operations in the event of a campus outbreak of H1N1 flu. Such planning should include course coverage for faculty and continuity of business operations for administrators and staff.
Administrators are encouraged to tailor leave policies to accommodate the possibility of a widespread outbreak of H1N1 on campus and/or further CDC recommendations for campus closures/event cancellations in case of a major outbreak.
Senior administrators are encouraged to discuss setting up vaccination clinics on campus when vaccine supplies for H1N1 become available (at this writing, estimated to be October 2009). AASCU will continue to monitor the situation closely and advise members as the fall flu season develops.
Below are the priority vaccine groups, as set by the CDC.
The 2009 H1N1 Influenza vaccine priority groups include:
Pregnant women, as they are at higher risk of complications and immunization can potentially provide protection to infants who cannot be vaccinated.
Household contacts and caregivers for children younger than 6 months of age, as younger infants are at higher risk of influenza-related complications and cannot be vaccinate. Additionally, anyone in close contact with infants less than 6 months old should be vaccinated, to help protect infants by cocooning them from the virus.
Health care and emergency medical services personnel, as infections among healthcare workers have been reported. This happening can be a potential source of infection for vulnerable patients. Also, increased absenteeism in this population could reduce health care system capacity.
Individuals between the ages of sixth months and 24 years old because children from 6 months through 18 years of age are in close proximity of each other in day care and school settings. This increases the likelihood of the spread of diseases. Young adults ages 19 through 24 years of age are at higher risk, as they often live, work and study within close proximity.
Individuals between the ages of 25 and 64 years of age who have health conditions associated with higher risk of medical complications from influenza.
The 2009 H1N1 vaccine requires one dose for people over the age of 10. In order to be adequately protected, children under the age of nine need two doses of the vaccine. It is recommended the initial dose be followed by a booster approximately 21-28 days after.
Heading into any flu season, prevention is always the best measure of protection. In addition to the H1N1 flu vaccine, it is important to remember to get the regular seasonal flu vaccine, which is available at the health district’s public health centers, in addition to area pharmacies, clinics and medical provider offices. Practicing good health habits such as frequent hand washing, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze and staying home when you are ill are essential to creating a healthier environment on campus.
For up-to-date information about the 2009 H1N1 influenza, vaccine updates and clinics, visit:
Additional Information Resource Links
CDC guidance specific to colleges and universities: http://www.flu.gov/plan/school/higheredguidance.html
President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, Executive Report: U.S. Preparations for the 2009-H1N1 Influenza: http://www.whitehouse.gov/assets/documents/PCAST_H1N1_Report.pdf
http://www.flu.gov/ (Federal one-stop information site)
http://www.cdc.gov/flu/ (CDC flu site)
http://www.dhs.gov/files//programs/swine-flu.shtm (Homeland Security flu site)
http://www.hhs.gov/ (U.S. Health and Human Services flu site)
http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/safety/emergencyplan/pandemic/index.html (U.S. Department of Education flu site)