H1N1 Influenza / Swine Flu Information

Student Health Center

H1N1/Swine Flu Precautions and Planning

August 25, 2009

The H1N1 virus, more commonly known as swine flu, continues to concern the public health community. Cases of people coming down with the virus have been reported throughout the summer, during a time when health officials would not expect to see such infections. As students in the northern hemisphere return to school, officials at the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are expecting a second wave of the virus this fall in the U.S. As of this date, there have been no reported cases of the H1N1 virus on the Hamilton campus.

The current severity of the H1N1 virus is classified by the CDC as mild to moderate, but the future spread and severity of the disease is uncertain, according to federal health officials who participated in a briefing on Thursday, August 20. College students are among the groups considered to be at high risk for contracting the disease because of the close proximity in which they live and work.

Consequently, it is important that we take reasonable and prudent precautions. Hamilton continues to monitor developments and has protocols in place should H1N1 be confirmed on campus.

It is important to understand that the swine flu and the seasonal flu are different viruses that may be active at the same time. It is possible to contract neither virus, both viruses, or one and not the other. The symptoms of both forms of influenza are similar: fever, cough, runny or stuffy nose and sore throat. Fatigue, headaches, chills and body aches may also be present. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the H1N1 virus (i.e., swine flu) is a temperature of at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit when other symptoms are present. Students who have a high fever and suspect they may have contracted the H1N1 virus should immediately avoid any contact with others and call the Health Center (315-859-4111) to obtain a diagnosis and, if necessary, a treatment protocol. After hours, please call Hamilton College Emergency Medical Services (HCEMS) at 315-859-4000. In all cases, students with flu-like symptoms will be required to avoid contact with others for at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever.

Once the CDC recommends vaccinations should begin for seasonal influenza, we will schedule flu shot clinics for students just as we have done in the past. Scientists are also working to develop a vaccine for the H1N1 virus (i.e., swine flu) but that is not likely to be available until late this fall.

In the meantime, there are safety measures we can all take to minimize the prevalence and severity of influenza on campus. These steps are mostly common sense precautions that emphasize social distancing and good personal hygiene:

Practice Good Hand Hygiene
Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand cleaners containing at least 60 percent alcohol are also effective. It's a good idea to clean commonly touched surfaces such as doorknobs, keyboards and remote controls. The College has added additional alcohol-based sanitizers and antibacterial soap dispensers throughout campus.

Practice Respiratory Etiquette
The flu spreads from one person to another in the droplets produced by coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow or shoulder, not your hand. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth in case the virus is on your hands.

Stay home if you are sick. Working with the Dean of Students Office and your RA, the College will make arrangements to help you keep up with your studies and to bring meals to your room. In no instance will a student with flu-like symptoms and a fever be permitted to attend classes or eat in the dining hall. We all must take personal responsibility for helping to slow the spread of the virus and to protect others from becoming sick. This is also a good time to visit the Dean of Students Web site to update your personal evacuation plan.

We are planning with the assumption that H1N1 will be present on the Hamilton campus at some point this fall, but with the precautions we have in place we hope to minimize the extent of the outbreak. We will continue to monitor developments from federal, state and county officials and will provide updates to the campus as necessary. In the meantime, you may wish to monitor the situation at the CDC Web site. Pertinent information is also available from the American College Health Association.

Christine Merritt, NP/PA-C
Director of Student Health