Fall is here. And while the change of season signals the arrival of colorful leaves and pumpkin carving, it also signifies the beginning of something many prefer to avoid: flu season.
Dr. Robert Winfield, the University’s Chief Health Officer and Director of University Health Service, said while the University is planning to promote vaccination a bit more than usual, the fact that there has not yet been an outbreak of cases actually poses challenges for potential prevention measures.
“The influenza season has not yet begun,” Winfield said. “So we do not know the strain of flu we will be seeing this fall, and we don’t know if there is a good match with the vaccine with the circulating virus because there is no circulating virus yet.”
According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, a total of three people have been hospitalized due to influenza so far this flu season.
Winfield said the University is currently focused on preparing for the unlikely scenario that an Ebola patient is diagnosed at the University or arrives for treatment at the University Hospital. The University Health System has already initiated practice drills, purchased new equipment and redesigned telephone protocols to better indicate whether the patient has been in contact with someone with Ebola or has been in countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and New Guinea in the last 21 days.
“Part of the conversation is how to protect the community, and how to make sure the health care workers don’t get contaminated and that other patients in the hospital don’t get contaminated” Winfield said.
Peter Logan, director of communications for University Housing, said he has no knowledge of new measures for flu prevention, and added that University Health Service would direct Housing to adopt any new measures they recommend. In recent years, Logan said the University has worked to inform students about how to protect themselves from influenza and what to do if they get it.
While the most common strain during flu season, influenza A, can be treated with the medicine Tamiflu, Winfield said the most effective preventative strategy is for people to keep their hands clean.
Logan said Housing has several initiatives in place for students who do become ill. Feel Better Meals allows a friend or Residential Adviser to pick up and deliver specially prepared meals for sick students.
In 2010, the University was the first college in the country to introduce liquid ozone as a cleaner in South Quad Residence Hall, and the substance has since been used in most residence halls as well as in the Michigan Union and Michigan League. Ozone cleaners are stronger and begin working more quickly than other types of sanitizers.
“Obviously one of the key messages we encourage our residents to follow is that if they do get sick, we really advise them to stay in bed, ride it out, get well,” Logan said. “Don’t take your illness, don’t take your germs into the community and into the classrooms.”