H1N1 Influenza Information & Prevention

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Letter to Faculty

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Dear Muhlenberg College Faculty,

As we embark on a new academic year, we would like to take this opportunity to share with you information about the novel H1N1 virus and the impact it may have at Muhlenberg College this fall. 

On June 11, 2009, the World Health Organization signaled that a pandemic of H1N1 was underway.  Although the cases of novel H1N1 virus peaked in Pennsylvania at the end of June and beginning of July, public health officials believe novel H1N1 will again return in the fall with an increase in cases as early as late September and early October.  Because individuals who are age 5 years to 24 years had a higher prevalence of novel H1N1 infection than other age groups, College campuses, including Muhlenberg College, are likely to have cases of novel H1N1 virus on campus.

The Pandemic Influenza Response Team at Muhlenberg College has been closely monitoring the novel H1N1 virus activity.  In addition, we have been working with our local health department and have been tracking information provided by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). 

Muhlenberg College will be following the “CDC Guidance for Responses to Influenza for Institutions of Higher Education during the 2009-2010 Academic Year” which was recently released.  Since this disease is widespread and highly contagious, these recommendations are directed towards reducing the burden of disease and minimizing its spread.  In addition to hand-washing, cough etiquette, promotion of the annual seasonal flu vaccine, and other non-pharmacologic interventions, the CDC has recommended “social isolation” of individuals with flu-like illness, including exclusion of ill individuals from school and other public activities until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever without the use of fever reducing medicine.

In complying with these recommendations, Muhlenberg College will support social isolation for those with flu-like illness.   Flu-like illness is associated with symptoms such as fever, cough, runny nose, muscle aches, and sore throat.   We will strongly urge students with flu-like illness to leave campus and return home to rest and recover.  They may return to campus 24 hours after the fever has resolved as above.  Students with flu-like illness who are unable to go home should not attend classes or any public gatherings.  If the current H1N1 trend continues, most student absences will be approximately one week or less.

Likewise, faculty experiencing flu symptoms should follow the CDC self-isolation guidelines and should not be present in their classrooms, labs, studios, or offices during illness.  Faculty should alert appropriate officials in their departments as soon as possible to inform them that they will be absent and/or to identify possible substitutes.
If the novel H1N1 strain begins to cause more severe disease, the CDC recommendations and the college’s response regarding social isolation may become more stringent.

Obviously, the possibility of absenteeism will have an impact on your semester.  Not only may H1N1 illness cause significant stress for infected students, it may also create an additional burden on faculty in addressing absenteeism issues for students and rescheduling examinations.  However, we encourage you to make every reasonable effort to enable students to complete their courses while being cognizant that it is imperative that infected students minimize the spread of disease as much as possible by social isolation.  Therefore, we are asking that you:


  • Monitor students for influenza like illness and reinforce self isolation with your students. Remind them that in balancing public health and class attendance, public health must carry the greatest weight.
  • Establish a reasonable timeline and means (email or telephone) through which students can inform you that they have flu-like symptoms and will be missing classes.
  • Provide students with a reasonable opportunity to make-up missed work.
  • Do not ask or expect to receive a note from Health Services regarding missed classes or any type of physician note regarding absences due to the flu.  Again the CDC recommendations are directed towards mitigation; not all individuals with the flu will need to seek medical care.

It is also very important that faculty take care of ourselves during this public health threat. Here are some simple suggestions, aimed at decreasing faculty vulnerability:


  • Bring and use instant hand sanitizer in your office.
  • Place a departmental order for Clorox wipes through Plant Operations and encourage their use on office surfaces, such as door handles, counters and table tops.
  • Do not bring ill children to campus.
  • Prepare assignments that can be emailed to students in the event that you become ill.
  • We are also asking department chairs to inform Barb Spangler if faculty miss class for multiple days because of illness.

If you have any questions about academic policies, you may contact the Provost (484-664-3134); for questions related to H1N1, please call Health Services (484-664-3199).
Sincerely,

John Ramsay                                                                            
Provost

Brynnmarie Dorsey                                            
Director, Health Services