Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

U-M prepares for H1N1 flu this fall

The university will launch a promotional campaign this fall designed to remind students, staff and faculty to cover their coughs and wash their hands frequently as ways to prevent the spread of the flu.

The first phase of that campaign was launched this week when an e-mail message outlining flu preparations was sent to students and parents. Similar messages are being sent to faculty and to staff.

“We continue to see a low but steady level of H1N1 illness on our campus, and public health officials expect this level to increase this fall as students return to classes at the U-M and across the country,” says Dr. Robert Winfield, chief health officer and director of University Health Service.

That’s why, Winfield says, the promotional campaign is being put in place for the start of the academic year in early September.

In addition to the e-mail messages, there will be “cover your cough” posters placed in residence halls and other campus buildings. There also will be mirror-cling reminders posted in most campus restrooms urging people to “Deposit germs here” by washing their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.

Even though most of those who become ill with H1N1 flu are getting mild to moderate cases and they are recovering fully in a week or less without any medical intervention, Winfield says it’s important to take this new strain of flu seriously as the normal flu season approaches.

In addition to the promotional campaign, U-M officials will be placing dispensers of hand sanitizer in the common areas of many campus buildings, especially locations like dining halls and computer centers.

The e-mail message, from Winfield as well as Teresa Sullivan, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, and E. Royster Harper, vice president for student affairs, asks students not to come to campus this fall if they are sick with the flu. If they get sick during the semester, students are asked to self-isolate themselves in their residence hall rooms or apartments.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now is recommending isolation until individuals are fever free for 24 hours, without the use of fever-lowering medications, typically three to five days. That is a reduction of the previously recommended isolation period of seven days. The seven-day isolation recommendation continues for those who work in health-care settings.

The message to faculty asks instructors to consider additional flexibility for those students who may have to miss class for the flu. To assist faculty with making more course materials available online, the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching has developed a new set of tips and resources for teaching in a time of widespread illness. The new material is available through the CRLT Web site, www.crlt.umich.edu/flu/.

The message to staff reminds individuals to follow the established procedures in their units for calling in sick with the flu and recommends that staff use sick time or paid time off to recover until they are fever free for 24 hours.

Additionally, Winfield says students through age 24 would be among those offered the H1N1 flu vaccination during the first phase of administering the flu. The CDC expects the vaccine to be ready in late October or early November. Seasonal flu vaccinations also will be offered earlier this year.

The university has established a Web site, www.vpcomm.umich.edu/pa/key/flu-H1N1.html, for posting all flu updates and welcomes further questions about the flu through e-mail at fluquestions@umich.edu.