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Updated 10:00 AM September 21, 2007
 

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Call for action: Students needed for M-FLU study

On your marks, get set, ah-ah-ah CHOOO!

Recruitment of more than 2,000 students starts today for the second year of the M-FLU study, which will commence when the first case of influenza is confirmed on campus and then continue for eight weeks.

The M-FLU study, led by Assistant Professor Allison Aiello and Professor Arnold Monto, both of School of Public Health, received national and international media attention last year for their unique methodology involving the use of surgical masks.

Students who volunteer this year will be in one of three groups. One group wears surgical masks, one group wears masks and uses alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and the third is a control group that takes online surveys. The other two groups also take online surveys.

Students are asked to wear the masks for at least six hours in their residence halls, and are encouraged, but not required to wear the masks on campus. An added component of the study is that this year there is a rapid flu test for participants. This means students can have their throats swabbed, and 10 minutes later know if they are infected, says Rebecca Coulborn, study coordinator.

The purpose of the study is to help researchers understand whether wearing surgical masks and using alcohol-based hand sanitizers will help to thwart the spread of influenza if a pandemic happens. If a pandemic does occur, experts foresee a severe shortage of pharmaceutical interventions. Most people will not have access to vaccines so nonpharmaceutical interventions will be crucial, says Genevra Murray, M-FLU study manager. This study will tell researchers how non-pharmaceutical interventions can be used feasibly and effectively, and how they cannot.

Students who agree to participate in the study are essentially helping to develop national policy to establish nonpharmaceutical interventions that will thwart the spread of influenza if a pandemic outbreak occurs, Aiello says.

Flu season is fickle, and could begin anytime after November. Last year the intervention component of the study — when students don the masks — began Jan. 29. Participants must be students 18 or over, and live in East, West and South Quadrangles, Bursley Hall or Alice Lloyd Hall. M-FLU needs about 2,250 volunteers, which is about half the combined total student population of the residence halls in the study.

Each of the halls will host student events for participants, Coulborn says, such as group viewings of "Grey's Anatomy" and other fun, social events.

The study is a partnership between SPH, University Housing and University Health Service. It's funded by the Centers for Disease Control.

If interested, eligible students can stop by M-FLU study tables at the five participating residence halls during afternoon and evening dining hours or go to www.mflu.org.

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