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ASU issues guidelines for students, parents, about H1N1 flu

August 25, 2009 -- In preparation for the possibility of H1N1 flu cases at Arkansas State University, university officials have devised a set of guidelines for use by students, parents, and the ASU community outlining steps to take in the event of the onset of flu-like symptoms.

Dr. Deborah Persell, associate professor of Nursing in ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, coordinator of the Regional Center for Disaster Preparedness Education, and an expert in Emergency Management and Homeland Security, is working with campus leaders to ensure all pertinent information about the H1N1 virus is up-to-date and posted on ASU’s official website, http://www.astate.edu, and is easily accessible.

In addition to the guidelines, the Centers for Disease Control cites the following preventive measures which are listed on the school’s website and should be observed:

         Wash your hands often to help protect you from germs and use hand sanitizer

         Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth

         Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food

         Advise sick students, faculty, and staff to stay at home or in their residences until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever (100 degrees)

         Encourage students and staff at higher risk of complications from flu to check with their health care providers

         Encourage students and staff to cough into their sleeves or cover their mouths and noses with a tissue when they cough or sneeze; they should then immediately place the tissue in the waste basket and wash their hands  

         Establish regular schedules for frequent cleaning of surfaces and items that are more likely to have frequent hand contact such as desks, door knobs, keyboards, or counters

         Use disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces such as chairs, remote controls, and keyboards shared by students can be wiped down prior to each use

         Encourage students to frequently clean their living quarters


“If  a student has difficulty breathing, his or her condition worsens rapidly, or if a student or resident advisor is calling on behalf of a lethargic student, we advise seeking medical attention immediately—in an emergency room or urgent care facility, or at the Student Health Center on campus,” said Persell. “We urge students to seek medical attention as soon as possible after the onset of flu symptoms.”

Flu symptoms include fever over 100 degrees, cough, muscle aches, extreme fatigue, runny or stuffy nose, and chills. Persell also notes that the incubation period for flu is 1-7 days. She says, “It takes 1-7 days to get sick after you’ve been exposed, and you can be contagious for up to 24 hours before you develop symptoms of the flu.”

Federal regulations (including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA) bar health personnel from discussing records or treatments unless the student has signed a waiver. All students who feel sick should report to the campus Student Health Center and be evaluated so they can sign a necessary waiver to release their health information to parents, guardians, and others.

“We have been working since April on a plan and guidelines in the event of a potential outbreak of the H1N1 virus on campus,” said Dr. Lonnie Williams, associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs. “Our plan evolved from the input by numerous key university personnel as well as observing and utilizing information from the Centers for Disease Control. We have even had one table-top exercise.

“If a student thinks he or she is sick, that student should immediately seek medical attention,” continued Williams. “If the Student Health Center is closed, self-isolate—stay in your room, don’t go to class or to the cafeteria, and let someone know you’re ill. Students should certainly inform their Resident Advisors (R. A.s), Residence Directors, family, and friends. Also, let your professors know as soon as possible, by e-mail or by phone. If possible, an ill student should go home for additional family support.”

The next step for those in self-isolation, according to Persell, is finding a “flu buddy,” someone with whom a student will share contact details and limited medical information, and who also may be asked to pick up, deliver, or relay class assignments, run errands, and generally serve as the student’s link to the outside world.

“If you need help,” says Persell, “notify your R. A., your flu buddy, or anyone else who can assist you while in isolation or in seeking medical help.” She stresses that any worsening of a student’s condition while in self-isolation should prompt that student to seek additional medical help.

Persell also advises that sick students, faculty, and staff stay home or in residences until they have been free of fever (100 degrees) for 24 hours without using fever-reducing medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen. Students, faculty, or staff with other medical conditions may be at a higher risk of complications from the flu. They should check with their health care providers about additional preventive measures.

Student Health Center hours are: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and last patients of the day will be seen at 4 p.m. To contact the Student Health Center, call (870) 972-2054. The center is located at 333B Stadium Boulevard.

For more information at ASU, contact Williams at (870) 972-3355 and Persell at (870) 972-3074. The link to the Centers for Disease Control is http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/.

   

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