H1N1 Influenza Information & Prevention
Letter to Employees
Dear Muhlenberg College Employee,
As we embark on this academic year, we would like to take this opportunity to provide important information to you 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. Additionally, 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 released this past week. Since this disease is widespread and highly contagious, these recommendations are directed towards minimizing the spread of the disease. In addition to hand-washing, cough etiquette, obtaining the 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 all 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. Likewise, we will encourage ill faculty and staff to stay home during the period of convalescence until 24 hours after they no longer have a fever and to keep any ill children at home (rather than bringing them to campus). 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.
Given the contagiousness of both the novel H1N1 virus and the seasonal flu, employees are asked to prepare for the possibility of significant absences in departments throughout the college during flu season.
Supervisors, in particular, are asked to take the following actions:
- Monitor employees for influenza-like illness and send ill employees home
- Reinforce with staff members that in balancing public health and work duties, public health considerations must carry the greatest weight
- Do not require staff reporting flu-like symptoms to submit a health care provider’s certification, unless the need for a doctor’s note is established with Human Resources
- Identify the essential functions of your unit and cross train employees to be able to fulfill these essential functions in case of absenteeism
- Permit employees to use vacation days (without advance notice) or personal days (non-exempt employees) as necessary to care for ill family members who are experiencing flu-like symptoms
- Permit employees who are absent due to flu-like illness who have expended all accumulated paid time off to use future sick and vacation time prior to actual accrual.
- Consider alternate work schedules and telecommuting where feasible to facilitate social distancing when employees in the group are experiencing flu-like symptoms
- Remind employees that ill children are not to be brought to campus.
- Encourage staff members to have hand sanitizer available at their work sites for themselves and visitors to use
- Request Clorox wipes through the Work Order system for employees to use to sanitize work surfaces and door knobs on a regular basis.
An additional component to the College’s response to the novel H1N1 virus will be our educational campaign. Shortly, you will notice signs around campus reminding you of strategies to help prevent the spread of flu around campus. We will also communicate any additional information about the H1N1 virus, its impact at the college, and the college’s response on our website and ‘Berg Bulletin. If you have any questions, you may contact Health Services at 484-664-3199 or Human Resources at 484-664-3165.
Director, Health Services
Anne W. Speck
VP for Human Resources