Colorado State University has developed an extensive plan to address a potential pandemic of flu on campus. The plan was developed about three years ago as part of a campus-wide effort. The plan is being adjusted to accommodate the traits of H1N1, which is expected to be relatively mild compared to other strains of the flu that could reach pandemic levels such as avian influenza.
Health experts have told the university to be ready for a wave of flu now that students are back on campus. The wave of flu is expected to span 4-6 weeks although there will be earlier and later cases. The H1N1 virus is expected to infect more people than the regular seasonal flu, but health officials do not at this time anticipate a high mortality rate.
“We’ve been preparing for a difficult flu season for several years,” said Mark Gill, chair of the university’s Public Safety Team. “Each department and unit on campus has been asked to make a plan for how they’ll operate during a significant flu season, such as the one we are expecting, which would impact business continuity and the educational environment of our students.”
The Colorado Department of Higher Education is not recommending that campuses close during outbreaks, but Colorado State University’s Public Safety Team will closely monitor the situation on campus. The university’s plan includes distributing hand sanitizer in academic buildings and developing a method to address academic credit issues that may arise from student or faculty absences.
The plan calls for teamwork across campus, emphasizing that accommodations will need to be made for ill students and employees as well as students or employees who must care for sick family members. The Division of Student Affairs is finalizing a student protocol through the CSU Health Network to ensure that they are excused from classes if they are ill.
While the university will make some housing accommodations for on-campus students in order to isolate ill students from well students, off-campus students need to develop their own plan for each household. The university is asking all students to make a plan with their parents about how the family will respond if he or she becomes ill.
Important rules to follow to stay well and help others in the community stay well:
– Wash hands frequently with soap and warm water.
– Cover coughs. Cough and sneeze into a tissue or into the inner elbow.
– People with a fever should seek medical attention.
– Sick people should stay home.
– Get a seasonal flu shot.
While the seasonal flu shot will not cover H1N1, it will still prevent usual seasonal flu, which is expected to circulate as during a typical year.
CSU’s Health Network officials anticipate that they will provide H1N1 flu shots to students free of charge later this fall when the shots become available. Officials believe H1N1 vaccines will be ready in October. The vaccine will be available at several locations on campus which will be listed on the Health Network website, www.health.colostate.edu. H1N1 vaccines also may be available to staff through the Health Network, depending upon the quantity of H1N1 vaccines that the Health Network receives from the federal government.
H1N1 vaccines will be distributed via priority lines developed by the Centers for Disease Control, which include providing the shots first to pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions, small children, health care providers and emergency responders. Although young adults up to the age of 25 are also a priority group, because of limited initial quantities of the vaccine the earliest priority will be given to young adults with chronic medical conditions or who are pregnant, as well as young children, health care providers and emergency responders.
Seasonal flu shots also will be available early September to students and staff. The seasonal flu shot is recommended for all groups; there is no anticipated shortage of this vaccine.
The university’s plan, along with helpful information for students and employees who want to develop a personal plan, is available at www.safety.colostate.edu.