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University Prepares to Deal With H1N1 Virus
With flu season just around the corner, university officials want to keep the campus community aware of ways to reduce the spread of seasonal influenza and the H1N1 virus.

“Anyone exhibiting symptoms of influenza or the H1N1 virus should stay home while they are ill,” notes Dr. James Welsh, the assistant vice president of student health.

Symptoms of the flu and H1N1 include fevers, headaches, fatigue, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, aches and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting. Though symptoms are similar for the two strains, medical experts are still working to develop a vaccine to fight H1N1.

Medical experts say the virus is highly contagious, but the vast majority of cases have been relatively mild. Still, the H1N1 virus can cause serious implications for those 65 and older, people with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women and young children.

University officials urge faculty and staff talk to each of their supervisors and take sick leave should the workers become infected. Employees without enough leave are advised to consult human resources. Guidelines for faculty and staff are available at the university’s emergency preparedness Web site.

“It doesn’t mean someone sneezing has influenza, but people need to take note if they have the symptoms of seasonal influenza and the H1N1 virus,” Welsh says. “Serious precautions need to be taken for this virus for which there is no immunity.”

More than 8,000 people in the United States have been hospitalized with the flu strain since last spring, and more cases are expected as the winter months approach. The virus is present in the Washington metro area. A small number of students on campus this summer -- all of whom have recovered and are no longer contagious – contracted the virus this summer.

Much has been learned about the H1N1 virus since last spring, and the university’s emergency response team has been in touch with federal and local public health officials throughout the summer to develop measures to reduce the risk of infection at Georgetown and provide support for those who become ill.

Officials have asked members of the university community to get their seasonal flu shots early this year. Plans are under way to provide flu shots for the university community early this fall. Once the H1N1 vaccine has been developed, the university will make it available to students, Welsh says. Faculty and staff are urged to visit their health care providers once the H1N1 vaccine is available.


In the meantime, he says good hygiene and coughing etiquette are ways to stave off illness. “Washing your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze; using alcohol-based hand sanitizer also works, and always cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue,” he says, “or cough into the inside of your elbow.

Hand sanitizer dispensers have remained a fixture around campus – near elevators, bus stops and other high-traffic common areas. And departments have been asked to make tissues, hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol and disinfectants for work stations available to their employees.

For more information about the H1N1 virus, including links to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site and the resources available on campus, visit Georgetown’s emergency preparedness Web site.

-- Nia Hightower

(September 2, 2009)
'Serious precautions need to be taken for this virus for which there is no immunity.' -- Dr. James Welsh, assistant vice president of student health

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Georgetown Emergency Preparedness
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