After seeing the new H1N1 (swine) flu sweep through campuses throughout the country, East Central University is taking extra precautions to educate students, faculty and staff.
Ryan Corley (left) of Shawnee and J.R. Longley of Nassau, The Bahamas, try out one of the new hand sanitizer dispensers in East Central University's Taff Cafeteria. ECU officials are distributing disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizers across the campus and educating students about frequent hand washing and other precautions to prevent catching the H1N1 virus. No cases have been reported on the Ada campus.
"The well-being of our campus is of upmost importance," ECU President John R. Hargave said. "Therefore, we are taking steps to prevent the spread of flu and will continue to be proactive in our response."
ECU officials are encouraging everyone to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer. Disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizers have been made available in buildings across the campus, and emails, posters and flyers are warning students, their parents and ECU faculty and staff how to prevent the spread of the flu and what to do if they have symptoms.
"Since the flu can be spread easily from person to person, we are really following the lead flu/respiratory disease precautions based on Center for Disease Control and Oklahoma Health Department recommendations," said Lisa Young, ECU director of health services.
Those precautions include:
- Avoid contact with ill persons
- Cover the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing with a tissue or elbow (not the uncovered hand)
- Throw used tissues in the trash
- Do not share food, drink or utensils
- Wash the hands with soap and water frequently -- particularly after sneezing -- or use an alcohol-based hand gel
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Get plenty of sleep
- Be physically active
- Drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food
- Manage your stress
Common areas such as tables, bathrooms, telephones, keyboards and doorknobs need to be disinfected frequently.
Students, faculty and staff members will need to watch for signs of illness, Hargrave said.
"Everyone is urged to seek professional help and stay at home if they are sick," he said. "If a student develops flu-like symptoms while on campus, they are encouraged to visit ECU's Student Health Services. If they are at home when symptoms develop, we ask them to remain there."
The symptoms of flu are fever (100 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius) or chills and cough or sore throat. In addition, symptoms can include a runny nose, body aches, headache, tiredness, diarrhea or vomiting.
Students who are ill with flu will be advised to go home and stay there until 24 hours after they no longer have an elevated temperature or until they have been temperature-free for 24 hours without taking medication to lower temperature.
Young said students also may experience a flu-like illness, but it is not the H1N1 flu. Its symptoms include mild fever (below 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius) or no fever, and possibly a cough or sore throat, or both. Students experiencing these symptoms should remain out of class and at home until they have been temperature-free for 24 hours. A mild, lingering cough may occur. Barring any other flu symptoms, this cough should not prevent students from returning to class.
The onset of flu symptoms can take up to three days. If a student experiences any flu symptoms within this time period, the university is asking them to stay at or go home to limit the spread of the virus.
ECU also encourages students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated for the seasonal flu, which is a separate vaccination from the H1N1 flu shots. ECU's Student Health Services plans to offer flu shots in October.
If this year's flu season becomes more severe, ECU may take additional steps to prevent the spread of the virus. Students and employees at higher risk for complications could be allowed to stay home even if they are not sick, and sick students and employees could be allowed to stay at home for an extended period, even if they are feeling better.
Other possibilities are moving desks farther apart, holding outdoor classes or using distance learning methods.
As a last resort in a very severe outbreak, classes could be suspended. That decision would be made with local and state public health officials.
"If a student must miss classes because of flu," Hargrave said, "our faculty are committed to working with them to make up missed class work. Our students' well-being is of vital importance to us."
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