The start of the school year two months ago meant a return to campus for students, faculty and staff. But it also meant the return of an unwelcome visitor – the H1N1 flu virus.
Like universities and communities across the nation, KU had expected this novel virus to reappear this fall. We knew some students, faculty and staff members would fall ill – that was unavoidable. And since August more than 700 students have reported flu-like symptoms to Student Health Services, with faculty and staff also falling ill.
But thanks to planning and preparation by people across the university, KU has met this challenge and campus life has continued with few disruptions.
To minimize the potential disruptions the H1N1 virus can cause, it remains important to limit its spread, especially since this is a disease that has been shown to hit individuals who are college-age and younger particularly hard.
The campus community was informed prior to the start of the school year about H1N1 and KU’s plan for fighting it. This includes a campaign encouraging habits we should all practice anyway, such as covering coughs and washing our hands frequently, which has spread the word – and hand sanitizer – throughout campus.
Another part of KU’s plan is asking individuals with flu-like symptoms to stay home from class or work until they’ve been fever-free for 24 hours.
Of course, this creates a disruption for those individuals, and in the case of students, causes them to miss class. That’s why faculty members have been encouraged to make use of technology like Blackboard to enable students to keep up with readings and assignments from home, and to evaluate their attendance policies so as not to create incentives for ill students to attend class.
To make it easier on the students who are ill – and to avoid opportunities for the further spread of H1N1 – Dining Services has been delivering meals to students who chose to stay isolated in their residence halls.
I want to thank all the individuals and offices who have come together to meet this challenge in the truly collaborative and selfless spirit that KU is known for.
This effort will continue, as we are far from being out of the woods when it comes to H1N1. As vaccine becomes available, I encourage you to get vaccinated against H1N1. This is important not only for your own health, but for the health of those in our community with compromised immune systems who may be at increased risk for illness.
I also encourage you to get vaccinated against the seasonal flu, an illness which can be just as disruptive as H1N1. Clinics continue this week at the Watkins Memorial Health Center, as well as throughout the community.
If you have questions, the Student Health Services Web site is a good source of information and can be visited at http://www.studenthealth.ku.edu/
Thank you to everyone at KU who has risen to meet this challenge, and who has dealt with H1N1’s headaches – both literal and figurative – in a manner that reflects well on this great university.