H1N1 here, faculty asked to help by relaxing attendance policies

October 23, 2009 | News, UToday
By Matt Lockwood

The Main Campus Medical Center has been dealing with a long and steady stream of students that are not feeling well in recent days.

Dr. Christopher Halasy, medical director and chief of medicine of the Main Campus Medical Center, said since more than a dozen students have tested positive for influenza A in the past week, it can be assumed that if students have a cough and/or a sore throat and a fever, they likely have influenza A and H1N1. Therefore, the Medical Center is no longer testing for the virus unless the patient has a chronic condition and is at higher risk of complications.

The Student Medical Center also is reminding students that unless they are pregnant or have a chronic condition, such as diabetes or asthma, they should not need to seek care at the center. However, students who still feel they need to be seen should make an appointment.

“It is critical that people isolate themselves when they get sick to prevent the spread of the flu,” Halasy said. “For the majority of students, there’s not much we can do other than recommend that they take Motrin or Tylenol, not aspirin, for fever and aches, get rest, keep up their fluids and self-isolate.”

If students get sick, they should stay home or in their residence hall rooms away from others until it’s been 24 hours since they’ve had a fever.

In addition to exposing others to flu by visiting the Medical Center, the large volume of students also is causing access issues, which may impede those at high risk of flu complications from being seen and getting treatment.

“Many of the students that we’re seeing just have colds and are apprehensive about H1N1,” Halasy said.

The University’s Faculty Senate has endorsed a relaxed attendance policy related to H1N1 illnesses, and on Friday Dr. Rosemary Haggett, Main Campus provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, underscored the importance of faculty cooperation in preventing the spread of disease.

“I am asking that faculty refrain from asking students for a doctor’s note if they’re sick with the flu,” Haggett said. “One, the Medical Center is not providing notes for the flu, and two, it is contrary to our message that encourages students to remain isolated. Further, faculty play a critical role in letting students know about their relaxed attendance policy and encouraging students to not attend class if they have the flu.”

Students should, however, contact their professors and inform them that they are sick and will be absent. That communication remains the student’s responsibility, and it should take place at the front end of an illness, not after the fact.

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