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University Health Service: Spread Awareness to Prevent Flu

By Matt Kiernan

Health Service Director Dr. Christopher Diamond and Provost Carl Lovitt provided a forum for faculty to discuss the H1N1 virus and what students and faculty should be doing to take care of themselves and look out for the well-being of others.

“How to keep the campus healthy has been the main focus since we’ve been here,” said Diamond.

Lovitt suggested that faculty should be more flexible during this season because of student illnesses and that if a professor allows a student to stay home for days at a time while being able to make up assignments, it would stop other students from becoming sick.

“We do encourage students who are sick to stay away from the classroom,” said Lovitt.

Make-up exams or pushing back deadlines would keep students from falling behind in their grades and studies as well as students having the ability to turn in late assignments. Study groups or fellow colleagues of students would also be an option to help a sick classmate with what is assigned during class or helping with notes.

“The reason we want them to stay away is to keep them from getting other students sick in the classroom,” said Lovitt.

A possible benefit from having this flexibility is that students wouldn’t need to hand in a note explaining why they were absent for a period of time. Students would need to make sure they weren’t ill anymore which would likely be qualified as no longer having a fever because of the decrease in chances of illnesses being spread when one doesn’t have a fever.

Faculty and staff were urged to get flu shots from their health care providers. Health Services has been seeing a rise in students coming in looking for care with an estimated five times the amount seen last year.

“Students need to stay away from the dorms if they are sick because that’s where people are more susceptible to illnesses,” said Diamond.

“Social distance” teaching is something that could be considered for professors, which would be a way for professors to post portions of notes from classes online but in an informative and meaningful way. The online application Blackboard Vista is a tool professors currently use to post portions of notes and assignments, but a call is being made for more professors to use it.

Diamond said that we are currently in the fourth phase of an epidemic, which would be human to human transmission of influenza. The first phase involves influenza that harms animals, but without transmission to humans.

“We have a pandemic but we’re living in a healthy community and healthy environment,” said Diamond.

Although the forum was composed of a very sparse audience in the Constitution Room of Memorial Hall, it was designed to provide information and context.

Past epidemics such as the Hong Kong flu, Asian flu, and Spanish flu during the past century had many fatalities that reached up to the millions.

Concern for faculty may be that if a professor gets sick there won’t be anyone qualified to fill their position for a short period of time. Many professors specialize in specific fields and areas that most others wouldn’t be prepared to teach in higher-level courses.

The administration hopes that faculty members will report if they’re seeing large amounts of students absent from classes to gain a clear idea of how many students may be ill.