From Our 2009 Archives

New Swine Flu Guidelines for Colleges, Work

CDC Explains How Colleges, Universities, and Businesses Should Handle Swine Flu

By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 20, 2009 -- Health officials want colleges, universities, and businesses to get up to speed on how to deal with swine flu this fall and winter.

The Latest on
H1N1 Swine Flu

The CDC today released new guidelines for colleges and universities about how to handle H1N1 swine flu, and yesterday issued guidelines for businesses that may find themselves short-staffed due to swine flu.

Here is a quick look at the new recommendations.

Swine Flu at Colleges and Universities

Apart from swine flu prevention tips that apply to everyone -- such as washing your hands, coughing into a tissue or your sleeve, cleaning shared surfaces like doorknobs, and staying home when you're sick -- the CDC has specific recommendations for college students living on campus.

The key guideline is for people with flu-like illness to avoid other people until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or more, or signs of fever, without use of fever-reducing medicines.

That means not going to classes, not going out to meals, not socializing in person, and avoiding close contact such as kissing, sharing eating or drinking utensils, or having other contact that would make it easy for the H1N1 virus to spread. The basic idea is to stay at least 6 feet away from people the sick person lives with.

Some students may have their own dorm rooms or temporarily move to a private home off campus. But if they have roommates, the CDC says the sick person should stay at least 6 feet away from people they live with and wear a surgical mask if close contact can't be avoided, and that shared bathrooms be avoided or cleaned frequently.

The CDC encourages colleges and universities to plan the solutions that would work best for their own particular situation and suggests considering setting up temporary, alternate housing -- such as a gym -- where sick students can recover.

To make that easier, the CDC suggests enlisting a friend to help out as a swine flu "buddy" who can bring in food, class notes, and other necessities.

Young adults have been hard hit by swine flu. The CDC advises college-age students to to find out if they've got high-risk conditions that could make swine flu more severe.

Managing Swine Flu at Work

The CDC's swine flu guidance for businesses and employers focuses on preparing for people to be out sick -- and on reassuring staff that staying home won't cost them their job.

As with college students, the CDC's main point is that workers with flu-like symptoms should stay home and not come back to work until at least 24 hours after they are free of a fever, or signs of a fever, without using fever-reducing medicines.

The CDC also urges employers to come up with flexible leave policies, in case workers need to stay home and care for a child who is sick or whose school or child care program has closed due to swine flu.

Here are some of the CDC's other swine flu tips for businesses and employers:

  • Expect sick employees to be out for three to five days, even if they're taking antiviral drugs.
  • If an employee gets sick during the day, isolate them from other workers and send them home promptly.
  • Don't require a doctor's note to allow recovered employees to come back to work.
  • Provide soap and water and alcohol-based hand sanitizers in the workplace.
  • Place posters in the work site that encourage employees to wash their hands often and to cover their coughs and sneezes with a tissue or sleeve.
  • Frequently clean surfaces and items that are likely to be touched frequently, including work stations, doorknobs, and countertops.
  • Encourage employees to get vaccinated against seasonal influenza and to get the swine flu vaccine when it becomes available.

The CDC also encourages seasonal flu vaccination -- and swine flu vaccination, when the H1N1 vaccine becomes available -- for students and workers. Colleges, universities, and businesses should also plan how they would handle swine flu if it gets a lot worse than it is right now, according to the CDC.

SOURCES: CDC: "CDC Guidance for Responses to Influenza for Institutions of Higher Education during the 2009-2010 Academic Year." CDC: "CDC Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to the 2009-2010 Influenza Season." News release, Department of Health and Human Services.

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