Their view: University response to H1N1 concerns

There have been many questions and concerns from students regarding H1N1 flu and what happens once flu cases are identified on campus. I wanted to take this opportunity to address some of the questions we’ve been hearing from students and help alleviate their concerns.

We assume that the H1N1 flu virus is already here and are planning accordingly by providing masks and sanitizing wipes in the residence halls and arranging for food service and wellness checks on ill students in the residence halls. We encourage students who become ill to go home. In some cases, students will not be able to leave campus because of their home’s proximity, transportation issues or their status as an international student.

It is not necessary, and would be counterproductive, to move all students that are ill into other facilities. Students who have been infected are contagious for 24-48 hours before showing any symptoms. The fact is that by the time you realize your roommate is sick, you have already been exposed to the virus, and moving either one of you out would not prevent you from getting the virus.

H1N1 flu is not an illness that includes the necessity of “quarantine.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends and uses the term “social distancing.” To protect the general population, arrangements have been made for ill students living in the residence halls to have meals delivered to them.

The Deweese Health Center never turns anyone away. We at University Health Services will work with you regarding billing whether you have health insurance or not. So if you don’t have health insurance, please do not let that stop you from visiting the health center. Your health is too important.

Should the university community be inundated with H1N1 cases, the health center will begin providing services based on need and available staff. There are a finite amount of appointments that the health center will be able to provide. Administrators, medical professionals and staff may themselves become infected, or they may be required to tend to sick family members.

Overwhelming numbers of ill people will overload all medical services in every city, county and region in Ohio. A vast majority of patients do not need to be seen by a medical professional unless symptoms become severe. There are no antibiotics for a virus. This illness is treated by treating the symptoms and many, if not all the symptoms, can be treated using over-the-counter medications.

With regards to sanitizing rooms and buildings, the H1N1 virus can live outside of the body for four to five hours. Students can use sanitizing wipes, but it would not be possible or reasonable to have each room sanitized. We believe the current schedule of cleaning residence halls and classrooms is sufficient; however, we highly recommend the use of sanitizing wipes on shared equipment before you use them, such as computers, phones and desks.

The best way to avoid becoming infected with a cold or flu is to wash your hands frequently with soap and water or with an alcohol-based sanitizer. Do not touch your hands to your face, especially the eyes, nose or mouth. University custodial services are aware of the need to provide a clean environment for the university community and have taken steps to ensure surfaces are cleaned.

Faculty members have gone through intense training and education regarding this situation to make sure classes are completed should they or any of their students become ill with H1N1 flu. Part of that training is the use of technology to teach classes from a distance, if necessary. The university’s goal is to assist all faculty and students in completing the semester.

We hope to make the H1N1 flu vaccine available to as many people as possible as quickly as possible.

We encourage everyone to visit for additional information and updates on seasonal and H1N1 flu.

Dr. Michael Grusenmeyer is the Chief University Physician and a guest columnist for the Daily Kent Stater