Fairfield University plans for flu season - keeps community informed

Expanding communication efforts and posting information throughout the campus where employees and students live and work, Fairfield health officials say the university is taking a proactive approach to the seasonal flu outbreak. Even though the pandemic alert for the novel H1N1 virus (previously known as swine flu) has been discontinued by the World Health Organization, public health officials still warn that seasonal flu epidemics occur every year, and the timing of flu is very unpredictable from season to season. Because of this, the university will also follow specific guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

In addition, Fairfield's student health center is encouraging faculty, staff, and students who want protection from the flu, to get vaccinated, and attend the vaccination clinic on Wednesday, Nov. 17, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Barone Campus Center. The cost of the flu shot is $30 or $35 for the nasal spray. The vaccine will prepare individuals for the flu season and protect against three different types of flu viruses: H3N2, influenza B, and H1N1.

The CDC recommends those with flu-like illness should stay away from classes and limit interaction with other people (self-isolation), except to seek medical care, for at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever, or signs of a fever, without having to use fever-reducing medications. School officials say it's important to use common sense, practice good hygiene by washing hands frequently with soap and water, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and stay at home if you are sick.

Fairfield student health center director, Judith Weindling, says the health center has a well-tested response plan in place for outbreaks of influenza on campus, and the professional staff is available to assist students who suspect they have the flu. "To date we have had no documented cases of flu in the health center, but flu timing is variable from year to year. The best way to protect yourself and the community from the flu is to get vaccinated," Weindling said.

With the number of flu cases expected to rise in the coming month as flu season hits its stride, nurses at the university health center will continue to provide facts about influenza and tips for prevention. Posters highlighting flu-like symptoms and ways to keep it from spreading have been distributed in campus residence halls. In addition, residence life staff members have received special training that outlines preventative measures. "Resident assistants have been asked to continuously remind their residents about the importance of washing their hands and not sharing their drinks. They have also been instructed to refer students who are exhibiting flu-like systems to the health center," Fairfield's assistant dean of students and director of residence life, Karen Donoghue said.

According to health care experts, the virus is most likely to affect individuals between the ages of 6 months and 25 years old, making colleges and universities a prime location for a high number of cases. For those who do get sick, knowing the difference between the seasonal flu and the common cold can help patients properly treat their symptoms. Flu develops much more suddenly and symptoms are more severe. In general the flu is more likely to have fever, muscle aches, headache, fatigue and less likely to have symptoms predominant with a cold, like sneezing and nasal congestion. Students with flu-like symptoms should promptly seek medical attention if they have a medical condition that puts them at increased risk of severe illness from flu. The suggested list of guidelines from the CDC can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/.

For more information contact the university health center at (203) 254-4000 ext. 2241 or e-mail at jweindling@fairfield.edu.

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Posted on November 9, 2010

Vol. 43, No. 108

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