As flu season kicks off in lake area schools, McNeese State University is taking precautions against the possibility of an outbreak of the H1N1 virus. "As expected, the H1N1 influenza is making a comeback as PreK-12 and college students return to schools and campuses," Toby Osburn, McNeese Dean of Student Services, said. "Just as seasonal flu, this virus is spread by human-to-human contact through coughing and sneezing. The close quarters of residence halls, classrooms, labs and social gatherings create prime conditions for the transmission of H1N1 flu and the seasonal flu."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that this strain of the flu is not as severe as it was first thought to be. The CDC also advises that persons age 25 and younger are most at risk for contracting the H1N1 flu.
McNeese has begun an awareness campaign designed to inform students and
employees about the symptoms of the H1N1 influenza and virus prevention.
"We are using e-mail, the McNeese Web page, posters, printed informational
materials and campus video boards to get the message out to employees and
students," Candace Townsend, director of public information and communications, said.
According to Osburn, the H1N1 virus has been discussed at resident student orientation and information is being distributed to other student organizations including Greeks, student-athletes, cheerleaders and band members. "Every student that visits the student health center will receive information on virus prevention, symptoms and procedures to take if they become ill," Osburn said.
At the direction of McNeese President Dr. Robert Hebert, members of the university's emergency response team have been collaborating with state and local public health officials on prevention and response procedures since the outset of the virus in the spring. Hebert has designated a special task force to review the university's pandemic plan and address campus preparedness. This team includes representatives from student services, business affairs, academics, information technology, human resources, facilities and public information and communications.
"The CDC and other public agencies have identified the college-age population to be particularly susceptible to the H1N1 flu virus. It is important that we review our plans to make certain that we can maintain classroom instruction and other business functions if there is a large outbreak of the virus at McNeese," Hebert said.
"Health care providers are not routinely testing for the H1N1 flu virus so it is impossible to say with certainty how many cases we may have at McNeese or in Southwest Louisiana," Osburn said. "We are monitoring employee and student absences and self-reported cases of flu-like symptoms." According to the CDC, it is highly likely that flu-like symptoms during this non-traditional flu season are related to the H1N1 virus.
In addition to the information campaign, hand sanitizer pumps are being placed throughout campus at key hand-to-hand transaction points and non-bleach sanitizing wipes at key hand-to-surface contact areas such as computer labs, motor pool vehicles, the recreation complex and athletic exercise and weight rooms.
Townsend said that custodial personnel have received an in-service on the
importance of maintaining routine services and placing additional emphasis on cleaning frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs. Employees are being encouraged to keep personal hand sanitizer in their offices or workstations and to use non-bleach sanitizing wipes on personal work areas.
"The best prevention against the H1N1 flu, or any virus, is frequent proper hand washing and coughing or sneezing into a tissue or your sleeve," Osburn said. "We are advising students to stay home if they have flu-like symptoms and to return to class only after they are fever free for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications."
Current McNeese information and links to the CDC and other web sites can be
found on the McNeese emergency communication web page at
www.mcneese.edu/emergency <http://www.mcneese.edu/emergency> .