What is Novel H1N1 Flu? Novel H1N1 is a newly evolved virus that causes illness in people. Typical symptoms include fever over 100°F (38.0°C) with cough and/or sore throat. Since it was first discovered in April, 2009, most individuals infected with Novel H1N1 have had a mild to moderate illness and have recovered without medical treatment. Until epidemiologists better understand this new virus’s potential to cause more severe human illness, experts advise all of us to take common sense precautions to avoid infections with Novel H1N1 as well as other viral respiratory infections.
Is Messiah College prepared for an outbreak of Novel H1N1 flu? Yes! For several years the College has prepared various contingency plans to deal with potential pandemic illness. The College Pandemic Committee has met more frequently since reports of Novel H1N1 surfaced in April, and plans are in place to mitigate pandemic influenza when and if it arrives on campus. We monitor bulletins from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) daily and update our contingency plans accordingly. We have established relationships with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and will work with them when and if pandemic flu is identified on campus.
Should I be concerned? Novel H1N1 virus has been infecting individuals under the age of 25 at a higher rate than traditional flu-prone groups such as the elderly. Young people on college campuses are especially likely to catch influenza because of exposure to large groups of people in classrooms, dining halls and residence halls. So far, illness due to Novel H1N1 has usually been mild to moderate, but epidemiologists do not yet know if this virus might cause more severe illness in the coming months.
What about individuals with pre-existing health conditions? Individuals with pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, pregnancy, those with weakened immune systems (HIV, Crohn’s disease, Rheumatoid arthritis, etc.), young children and the elderly are at increased risk for complications of flu such as pneumonia. Any student who falls into one of these high risk categories should CALL THE ENGLE CENTER PROMPTLY FOR AN APPPOINTMENT upon developing flu-like symptoms OR if exposed to a close contact, such as a roommate, with influenza-like symptoms. Any employee who falls into one of these high-risk categories and develops flu-like symptoms should call their primary care provider promptly for an appointment. Anti-viral medications are often appropriate for individuals with pre-existing health conditions, but are most helpful if started within 48 hours of first symptoms or exposure. Increased fluid intake can help prevent dehydration. Antibiotics are not useful in fighting viral illnesses such as influenza.
What is Messiah College doing to reduce transmission of viral illnesses?
Flu-Prevention with Vaccination: We urge all students and employees to get flu shots this year. The CDC recommends FOR ALL COLLEGE STUDENTS a single dose of seasonal influenza vaccine as soon as it is available, and two doses of Novel H1N1 vaccine (approximately 4 weeks apart) when it becomes available later this fall. We also URGE ALL EMPLOYEES to get these vaccines, as influenza is a major cause of lost work days during the fall and winter months. Messiah College will make these vaccines available to students and employees at minimal cost when and if they become available to us, on a first-come/first-served basis. Influenza vaccines are also available through your primary care provider, the Department of Health and through flu-shot-clinics offered by local pharmacies. Since we do not yet know how many doses of the vaccines will be available to the College for purchase, please make every attempt to get these vaccinations from your primary care provider or other clinic. For students, Fall Break in October and Thanksgiving Break in November would be good opportunities to schedule the two doses of the Novel H1N1 vaccine from your primary care physician.
Reduction of Viral Transmission: We have posters throughout the campus promoting methods to reduce transmission of viral illnesses. All students and employees are encouraged to wash hands frequently, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth, cover all coughs and sneezes with a tissue or an arm to contain germs, and practice “social distancing” when ill to avoid transmitting the virus to others. Students are encouraged to wash common areas in their dorm rooms such as doorknobs and keyboards with disinfecting wipes. Cleaning personnel will disinfect shared surface areas such as sinks, doorknobs and elevator buttons more frequently.
Promotion of “Social Distancing:” Any student or employee who develops fever with cough or sore throat is encouraged to LEAVE CAMPUS AND GO HOME if at all possible. Please stay home until 24 hours after your fever is resolved without the aid of fever reducing medications. Students who are unable to go home because they live a great distance away from the College are encouraged to stay in their dorm room until 24 hours after the fever is resolved. College personnel are looking into the possibility of delivering food and beverages to students with influenza-like-illness (ILI) who must practice “social distancing” by not leaving their room while ill. An ill student (with fever) who must leave their room (i.e. to obtain health care or to use a common bathroom) is urged to protect others by covering nose and mouth with a tissue, bandanna or facemask.
What should if I do if I get a fever? Typical influenza and influenza-like-illness(ILI) symptoms are fever over 100°F (38.0°C) with cough and/or sore throat.
STUDENTS: During the 2009-2010 academic year, please follow these steps if you develop ILI symptoms:
PLEASE PHONE THE ENGLE CENTER AT (717) 691-6035 TO REPORT YOUR SYMPTOMS so we can monitor any influenza outbreaks on campus. Most students will not experience severe illness and will recover without medical treatment.
Any student who feels severely ill OR who has a pre-existing health condition (see #4) should call the Engle Center promptly for an appointment.
PLEASE LEAVE CAMPUS AND GO HOME if at all possible to avoid exposing others to your illness.
PARENTS: If your student develops an influenza-like illness, please come to campus and pick him or her up as soon as possible. This is both for the student’s comfort as well as for the protection of other students and employees. The Engle Center does not have an infirmary for overnight care or spare rooms available to isolate ill students.
EMPLOYEES: PLEASE LEAVE CAMPUS AND GO HOME until 24 hours after your fever is resolved without the aid of fever reducing medications.
Is there any treatment for influenza? At this time the best treatment for influenza and other ILIs is bed rest and symptomatic treatment of symptoms with fever reducing medications, decongestants and cough suppressants. These types of medications are available over the counter and are available for purchase at minimal cost at the Engle Center. Anti-viral medications are currently recommended only for those who are severely ill or who are at high risk for complications from influenza (see #4 above). STUDENTS WITH PRE-EXISTING HEALTH CONDITIONS LISTED ABOVE ( see #4) SHOULD CALL THE ENGLE CENTER IMMEDIATELY IF EXPOSED TO A ROOMATE WITH INFLUENZA OR UPON DEVELOPING FEVER OVER 100 WITH COUGH AND/OR SORE THROAT. Anti-viral medications will be prescribed to these individuals, but are most helpful if started within 48 hours of first symptoms or exposure. Increased fluid intake can help prevent dehydration. Antibiotics are not useful in fighting viral illnesses such as influenza.
How can I avoid infecting others? Influenza viruses are transmitted mainly through the air by aerosolized particles created when sick individuals cough or sneeze. The virus-laden particles can also land on surfaces where they can survive for several weeks. THE BEST WAY TO AVOID INFECTING OTHERS IS TO LEAVE CAMPUS AND GO HOME IF AT ALL POSSIBLE. People ill with influenza typically feel too ill to attend classes and extra-curricular activities, so home is clearly the best place to be. If you are unable to leave campus because you live a great distance away, you are strongly encouraged to STAY IN YOUR ROOM while you have a fever, and for 24 hours after your fever has resolved WITHOUT fever- reducing medications. [Please DO use fever reducing medications to reduce your fever and achiness while ill. Your fever is considered “resolved” if it does not recur after stopping your fever-reducing medications.] If you must leave your room while ill with fever, please keep your nose and mouth covered with a tissue, bandanna or face mask. Frequent hand washing and disinfecting of common-area surfaces (such as door knobs) with disinfecting wipes are very important in reducing transmission.
How long am I contagious? Individuals with influenza are considered MOST contagious from the day BEFORE they show symptoms until about 24 hours after fever resolves, but should be considered potentially contagious for at least seven days after onset of illness.
What if my roommate has the flu? By the time your roommate has symptoms of influenza; you have already been exposed to the virus. Getting plenty of rest and good nutrition will put your immune system in the best position possible to fight infection. Anti-viral medications to PREVENT flu are currently recommended only for individuals at increased risk for complications of flu (see #4). If there is a very large outbreak of influenza on the campus, it is possible that the College will need to close temporarily. If this should happen, the College Emergency Response Team will post instructions and information atwww.messiah.edu.
Does every flu-like illness need to be evaluated at the Engle Center? No. Most individuals infected with H1N1 will recover in 7-10 days without any medical treatment. Those who do not feel severely ill may want to avoid the Health Services waiting room where there is the potential for exposure to additional viral illnesses. Any student who feels severely ill, however, is encouraged to call the Engle Center at ext. 6035 for an appointment.
What if I need a note because I missed class or work due to flu? For now, follow the normal process for getting a visit verification (VV) slip from the Engle Center: if you miss class or work due to illness, you must come to the Engle Center for a nurse visit to obtain a VV slip. When we begin to receive reports of flu on campus, we will institute a process for obtaining a “report of illness document” for your instructor(s) or supervisor without your having to come to Health Services and expose others to your illness. We will make an announcement when and if that process is instituted.
Where can I go for more information about H1N1 flu? Feel free to give us a call at the Engle Center at (717) 691-6035. Detailed and current information about H1N1 flu is available at http://www.cdc.gov.h1n1flu/general_info.htm