Questions and Answers

CDC's guidance regarding H1N1 for institutions of higher education (2009-10 Academic Year)

Q. How does the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) new guidance differ from the previous guidance for institutions of higher education?

This new guidance, which was updated on Aug. 20, 2009, applies to any flu virus circulating during the 2009–2010 academic year, not only 2009 H1N1 flu. It recognizes the need to balance risks of illness among faculty, students and staff with the benefits of keeping students in classes. It offers strategies and guidance for current flu conditions and for more severe flu conditions.

This guidance recommends that, based on current flu conditions, students, faculty and staff with flu-like illness should stay in their homes until, at least, 24 hours after they no longer have a fever (100 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius) or signs of a fever (have chills, feel very warm, have a flushed appearance, or are sweating). This should be determined without the use of fever-reducing medications (any medicine that contains ibuprofen or acetaminophen). This is a shorter time period than outlined in previous CDC guidance.

Under more severe conditions, a longer period will be recommended for healthcare settings and anywhere a high number of people at higher risk for complications from flu may be exposed.

Q. What are institutions of higher education?

For the purpose of this guidance, the term "institutions of higher education" refers to places of learning that include:

  • Universities and colleges.
  • Public and private institutions.
  • Residential and nonresidential institutions.
  • Degree-granting and non-degree-granting institutions.
  • Educational or training programs that last from a few weeks to four or more years.
  • Student population sizes ranging from fewer than one hundred to tens of thousands.
  • Community colleges.
  • Vocational education and training programs.
  • Students from across the country and around the world.

Steps to help keep students, faculty and staff healthy

Q. What steps can institutions take to keep students, faculty and staff healthy?

  • Separate people who are sick from those who are well as soon as possible.
  • Encourage good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette through direct education, communication materials such as posters and flyers, and other methods including e-mail, text messaging or phone calls.
  • Establish a method for maintaining contact with students who are sick. If resources permit, student affairs staff, housing staff, or health care providers could be assigned to make daily contact with each student.
  • Encourage sick people to stay at home or in their residence except to talk with a health care provider about whether they have flu, appropriate treatment, and what actions to take if they have severe symptoms.
  • Encourage students, faculty and staff to stay at home if they are sick with flu-like illness until they are free of fever for at least 24 hours.
  • Discourage visitors with flu-like illness from attending institution-sponsored events until they are free of fever for at least 24 hours.
  • Examine and revise, as necessary, current flu (or crisis) response plans and procedures, and update contact information.
  • Communicate with vendors who supply critical products and services, including hygiene supplies, food service, and personal protective equipment for staff, to address the continuation of these products and services throughout the flu season.
  • Encourage any students, faculty or staff who wants protection from flu to get vaccinated for seasonal flu. Also encourage students, faculty, and staff who are at higher risk for flu complications from 2009 H1N1 flu to receive the H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available. People at higher risk for 2009 H1N1 flu complications include pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, heart disease, or diabetes). For more information about priority groups for vaccination, visit www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/acip.htm.

Q. What steps can students, faculty and staff take to stay healthy and keep from spreading the flu?

  • Practice good hand hygiene. They should wash their hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • Practice respiratory etiquette. The main way flu spreads is from person to person in droplets produced by coughs and sneezes, so it’s important that people cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when they cough or sneeze. If they don’t have a tissue, they should cough or sneeze into their elbow or shoulder, not their hands.
  • Stay home if they are sick. Stay home or in their place of residence for at least 24 hours after they no long have a fever.
  • Talk to their health care providers about whether they should be vaccinated. Students, faculty, and staff who want protection from the flu can be encouraged to get vaccinated for seasonal flu. Also students, faculty, and staff who are at higher risk for flu complications from 2009 H1N1 flu, should consider getting the H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available. People at higher risk for 2009 H1N1 flu complications include pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, heart disease, or diabetes).
    For more information about priority groups for vaccination, visit www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/acip.htm.

Students, faculty and staff should take personal responsibility to help slow the spread of the flu virus. By practicing these steps, they can keep from getting sick from flu and help protect others from getting the flu.

Q. What are some ways institutions can encourage good hand hygiene?

  • Make soap, paper towels and alcohol-based hand cleaners readily available.
  • Educate all students, faculty and staff about good hand hygiene through direct education and communication materials such as posters and flyers.

Symptoms

Q. What are the symptoms of seasonal flu and the 2009 H1N1 flu?

Symptoms of flu include fever or chills and cough or sore throat. In addition, symptoms of flu can include runny nose, body aches, headache, tiredness, diarrhea, or vomiting.

Q. How do I recognize a fever or signs of a fever?

A fever is a temperature that is equal to or greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius. Look for these possible signs of fever: if he or she feels very warm, has a flushed appearance, or is sweating or shivering.

Q. How do I know if someone has 2009 H1N1 flu or seasonal flu?

It will be difficult to tell if someone who is sick has 2009 H1N1 flu or seasonal flu. Public health officials and medical authorities will not be recommending laboratory tests. Anyone who has the symptoms of flu-like illness should stay home and not go to work.

Symptoms of flu include fever or chills and cough or sore throat. In addition, symptoms of flu can include runny nose, body aches, headache, tiredness, diarrhea, or vomiting.

Q. What fever-reducing medications can students, faculty and staff take when sick?

Fever-reducing medications are medicines that contain acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen (such as Motrin). These medicines can be given to people who are sick with flu to help bring their fever down and to relieve their pain. Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) should not be given to anyone younger than 18 years of age who have flu; this can cause a rare but serious illness called Reye’s syndrome.

 

For more information, visit the CDC's website.

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