H1N1 Influenza Information & Prevention


Frequently Asked Questions

What is H1N1 swine flu?
H1N1 (referred to as “swine flu” early on) is a new influenza virus causing illness in people. This new virus was first detected in people in the United States in April 2009. Other countries, including Mexico and Canada, have reported people sick with this new virus. This virus is spreading from person-to-person, probably in much the same way that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread.

How serious is the H1N1 infection?
Like seasonal flu, H1N1 (swine) flu in humans can vary in severity from mild to severe. Between 2005 until January 2009, 12 human cases of swine flu were detected in the U.S. with no deaths occurring. However, swine flu infection can be serious. In September 1988, a previously healthy 32-year-old pregnant woman in Wisconsin was hospitalized for pneumonia after being infected with swine flu and died 8 days later. A swine flu outbreak in Fort Dix, New Jersey occurred in 1976 that caused more than 200 cases with serious illness in several people and one death.

What are the signs and symptoms of H1N1 flu in people?
The symptoms of H1N1 (swine) flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with H1N1 (swine) flu. In the past, severe illness (pneumonia and respiratory failure) and deaths have been reported with H1N1 (swine) flu infection in people. Like seasonal flu, H1N1 (swine) flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.

What can my student do to protect himself from getting sick?
There are everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza. Encourage your student to take these everyday steps to protect his health:

  • Encourage him to cover his nose and mouth with a tissue when he coughs or sneezes. Throw the tissue in the trash after it is used.
  • Encourage him to wash hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • Remind him to avoid touching his eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Encourage him to try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If he gets sick with influenza, CDC recommends that he stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

What is Muhlenberg College doing in response to H1N1 threat?
The college has a team of qualified individuals who have been working on preparedness plans since last spring.  The college’s goals are to reduce transmission and illness severity, and provide information to help faculty, staff, students and parents address the challenges posed by the new virus.  We are working closely with the Allentown Health Bureau, the PA Department of Health, and the CDC to prepare for, respond to and contain a campus outbreak, should one occur. 

What strategies will help protect our campus community?
In the event of a pandemic, certain public health measures may be important to help contain or limit the spread of infection as effectively as possible. The following actions could include:

  • treating sick and exposed people with antivirals
  • isolating sick students at home, or other campus facilities
  • identifying and quarantining exposed people
  • canceling public events

In addition, people should protect themselves and others by:

  •  washing hands frequently with soap and water
  • staying away from people who are sick
  • staying home if sick
  • keeping sick children at home

How long should my son or daughter stay home if he/she has the flu?
Your student is contagious until he/she no longer has a fever for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medicine.  For this reason, students are expected to go home to recover until fever free without the use of fever reducing medicine for 24 hours.  If the current trend continues, they will probably be able to return within 5-7 days. 

Is there a cure?
While there is no cure for any influenza virus (antibiotics do not work against viruses), there are anti-viral drugs called Tamiflu and Relenza that you can take at the onset of symptoms that may lessen the severity of the flu.  These drugs must be taken within 48 hours of feeling ill with flu symptoms.

Is there a H1N1 vaccine? 
There are two kinds of 2009 H1N1 vaccines being produced:

  • A 2009 H1N1 "flu shot" — an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) that is given with a needle, usually in the arm. The indications for who can get the 2009 H1N1 flu shot are the same as for seasonal flu shots. The flu shot is approved for use in people 6 months of age and older, including healthy people, people with chronic medical conditions and pregnant women. The same manufacturers who produce seasonal flu shots are producing 2009 H1N1 flu shots for use in the United States this season. The 2009 H1N1 flu shot is being made in the same way that the seasonal flu shot is made.

  • The 2009 H1N1 nasal spray flu vaccine — a vaccine made with live, weakened viruses that do not cause the flu (sometimes called LAIV for "live attenuated influenza vaccine"). The indications for who can get the 2009 H1N1 nasal spray vaccine are the same as for seasonal nasal spray vaccine. LAIV is approved for use in healthy* people 2 years to 49 years of age who are not pregnant. The nasal spray vaccine for use in the United States is being made by MedImmune, the same company that makes the seasonal nasal spray vaccine called “FluMist®.” The 2009 H1N1 nasal spray vaccine is being made in the same way as the seasonal nasal spray vaccine.

About 2 weeks after vaccination, antibodies that provide protection against 2009 H1N1 influenza virus infection will develop in the body.
The 2009 H1N1 vaccine will not protect against seasonal influenza viruses.

Will the H1N1 vaccine be available to our students?
Muhlenberg College Health Services is currently in the application process to request H1N1 vaccine.  At this time, we have not been told if or when we will receive the vaccine.  We will post more information about the availability of H1N1 vaccine as we know more.

What are the warning signs of serious illness?  When should students seek emergency medical care?
If they become ill and experience any of the following warning signs, students should seek emergency medical care.

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

How should a student let his professors know that he is ill with the flu and will be missing class?  How should the student handle missed class work and assignments?
Students should notify his professors by the email that he has flu-like symptoms and will be missing classes. If the current H1N1 trend continues, most student absences will be approximately one week or less. Students should discuss with their professors reasonable timelines for making-up missed work.  Students can ask classmates to copy their notes for missed classes.

Other than the professors, who else should students notify that they have the flu?
All students should call Health Services (484-664-3199) to report the flu.  Students who live in campus housing are also asked to call Office of Residential Services (484-664-3180) to report the flu.

I think my roommate might have the flu.  What should I do?
If you think your roommate may have flu symptoms, including fever, body aches, runny or stuffy nose, or sore throat, you should recommend that the roommate go to Health Services for evaluation.  If Health Services determines that the student has the flu or influenza like illness, self isolation of the student will be recommended.  We expect 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 without the use of fever reducing medication.  While the ill student is in contact with others, Health Services will supply the ill student with a mask to wear.
If your roommate was evaluated at Health Services and was diagnosed with the flu or a flu-like illness and is unable to go home, your roommate will need permission from the Dean of Students office to remain on campus.  If this occurs, the well roommate should contact Health Services to discuss possible temporary alternative living arrangements.

If a student has the flu and is confined to his room because he should not be in public, how will he get meals?
Please contact the Health Center regarding this.  Student Health Services will issue a diet recommendation slip to get a Student Illness Care Kit Meal (S.I.C.K. Meal) from the Garden Room. If your student needs to have a SICK Meal, have a roommate or friend present the ill student’s meal card and diet recommendation slip from Student Health Services to the Manager of the Garden Room. They will receive the needed food items along with wishes for a speedy recovery.