H1N1 (Swine) Flu Emergency Preparedness
A Message from the Provost:
Please consider this email a warm welcome back. I am always more comfortable when all the faculty, staff and students are back - the hustle and bustle is energizing!
Aside from the welcome, I also ask you for your help. You have undoubtedly read or heard something about the 2009 H1N1 virus, formerly referred to as the swine flu. This flu virus began surfacing last year and has not gone away. Now with the fall quickly on us, H1N1 will likely come back aggressively. Colleges and universities are already reporting non-trivial numbers of cases. Georgia Tech, for example, reported over 150 cases on the first day while the University of Kansas reported almost 200 cases!
In the next few weeks, you will see more communications from RIT on this issue. In fact, a campus planning team has been meeting for months to prepare the campus for this issue. In the meantime, I ask you to consider the following points:
- Federal and state authorities are predicting that the severity of Absenteeism rates are projected to be higher than normal (30-40% over a time period of roughly November-April).
- Young children and people in the age range of 16-24 are at higher risk than older people.
- An H1N1 flu vaccine is being developed but won’t be available to the general public until later in the fall. In addition, this vaccine will require two shots spaced over several weeks. And, people will still need to get the seasonal flu shot in addition the H1N1 vaccine.
- H1N1 is indistinguishable from seasonal flu, and the two flu seasons are expected to overlap. Faculty will not be able to ask students to provide documentation that they were sick with H1N1 flu because doctors and the health department are no longer testing specifically for the strain.
What can faculty, staff and students do?
- Follow basic flu prevention steps - wash hands frequently (the flu virus can live on surfaces for up to 8 hours), use a tissue when sneezing or coughing (or into a sleeve or elbow), stay home when feeling sick.
- If you have flu-like symptoms (fever over 100º, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue), call your doctor and follow his/her instructions.
- Students with flu-like symptoms should call the Student Health Center and follow the instructions they are given over the phone. Students may end up missing classes and may not have medical verification. Please be prepared to deal with these circumstances.
- Faculty can be prepared by developing a ‘course contingency’ plan.
- Do you use MyCourses? If not, this is a great time and reason to put your course materials up in MyCourses. This way, students who are infected and need to miss class can still get vital information about the course and you can still reach your students if you become sick.
- Do you have a colleague in your department who might substitute for you? Think about having a conversation with that individual now.
- Use your course syllabus to clearly set expectations for students and yourself.
- Finally, work with your department chair - they want to be prepared just like you.
I have asked Eileen Feeney Bushnell to work with the Academic Senate to consider ‘what if’ scenarios as a way of planning and giving guidance to the faculty. With luck, we will miss the brunt of what could be a sizable number of H1N1 cases. But with your preparation and thoughtfulness, RIT will be prepared to effectively deal with this challenge.
Jeremy Haefner Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs