18:00 PM

Ohio State outlines flu education and prevention measures

Ohio State officials today outlined steps the university is taking to prepare for a likely reoccurrence of influenza-like illness on campus this fall.

"Our biggest emphasis will be on prevention through education and vaccination," said Dr. Roger Miller, preventive medicine physician, Student Health Services. "We have begun communicating with the campus community on ways that individuals can protect themselves from getting sick and we are providing additional information and resources through a new web site: flu.osu.edu."

"We had H1N1 on our campus this spring and based upon what we are seeing at other universities, we fully expect it to return this fall. As a result, Ohio State will treat all influenza-like illnesses as if they were H1N1 during fall quarter," Miller added.

Frequent and thorough hand washing, along with maintaining general good health through adequate sleep, exercise and nutrition are being communicated throughout the university as the best means of prevention.

Students returning to campus for fall quarter are being encouraged to include thermometers, medicine, hand sanitizers and tissues as part of their back-to-school supplies. Sick students will be asked to self isolate until they are fever free for at least 24 hours and return home, if possible, to recover from their illness. Ill students who remain on campus can make arrangements for meals to be delivered to their rooms. In addition, faculty members have been asked to be as flexible as possible with absence policies so that sick students do not come to class.

The vast majority of individuals with influenza-like illness will experience mild to moderate symptoms and can recover on their own with rest, fluids and over-the-counter medications, Miller explained.

The university will not be routinely testing ill students for H1N1 and encourages those who are sick to only seek medical attention if symptoms get worse, with a fever over 103, breathing problems or if there are health issues that put the individual at greater risk.

"Vaccination will play a large role in Ohio State's prevention efforts, which are somewhat complicated by the need to administer separate vaccines for seasonal flu and H1N1," Miller said.

The university will begin offering seasonal flu vaccines to students in September and will begin administering the H1N1 vaccine, in accordance with CDC guidelines, when it becomes available later this fall. Faculty and staff annual seasonal flu vaccinations will be available in October.

Among the measures to prevent the spread of illness, the university is:
• Centralizing all flu education and prevention information at a new website: flu.osu.edu.
• Encouraging students to return to school with thermometers, medicine, hand sanitizers and tissues.
• Encouraging ill students to return home if they are able.
• Making accommodations for students unable to return home, including food delivery.
• Distributing information on the proper way to "cover your cough," including posters and email communications.
• Encouraging and in some cases mandating seasonal influenza vaccinations.
• Asking instructors to make reasonable accommodations for students who report they are ill.
• Communicating the university leave policies to faculty and staff, encouraging ill employees to stay home.
• Placing hand sanitizers in all residence halls and distributing hand sanitizer at the student involvement fair.
• Instructing housekeeping staff on proper cleaning techniques.