Facing the onset of another harsh Michigan winter and a severe
shortage in flu vaccinations, University health centers are hoping
that a simple, seemingly obvious measure prevent the spread of
further infections.

Janna Hutz
University Health Service graphic artist Diane Dues works on a poster for the “Cover Your Cough” campaign poster set to begin next week. (JEFF LEHNERT/Daily)

The goal of the University Health Service’s “Cover
Your Cough” campaign is for people to simply use a tissue
when they cough or to cough in their sleeve to prevent the spread
of droplets from an infected person’s nose or mouth from
harming someone else.

This happens not only through direct contact but also from
touching objects such as computer keyboards in libraries.

UHS plans to advertise the campaign with posters throughout
campus including in residence halls and buses, beginning next
week.

“If a person infected with the flu coughs on their hand
and then uses a keyboard and then someone else uses it after them
and then later … eats a cookie, that person has been
inoculated with the illness,” UHS Director Robert Winfield
said.

“We need to be responsible by changing our public health
behavior … Most people think if you don’t have a fever
but a cough you can still go to school. That’s okay with you,
but what about the people that you are sitting next to?”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention and other health
centers have even expressed confidence that limiting contact
between healthy and sick students can prevent the spread of the
flu. Chinese officials succeeded in using isolation to contain the
SARS breakout last year.

But Winfield said isolation is a drastic measure not yet used
for the flu, and that only a higher risk would lead UHS to begin
separating patients in waiting rooms and encouraging the use of
surgical masks, said Winfield.

For now, through the “Cover Your Cough” campaign
health officials hope to safeguard people without the flu by
changing the behavior of those infected, encouraging them not to
expose their illness to others.

“I think the campaign would be a good idea,” said
LSA freshman Emily Work. “It’s an important reminder
because a lot of people don’t really know how serious it
is.”

By posting advice on how to prevent the spread of germs, UHS
hopes to help students avoid the flu by teaching what is called
University Respiratory Etiquette which they believe will make a
substantial difference in stopping the spread of influenza.

Although preventive measures help to prevent the onset of
influenza, nothing remains as effective as the flu shot, which is
currently only provided to those at high risk because of the
ongoing shortage.

This causes people at an average risk to seek the alternative
FluMist, an intranasal version of the flu shot.

“Our demand for FluMist has been very high,” Krista
Hopson, media coordinator for UMHS.

The University decided earlier not to offer FluMist to students
because of certain risks associated with it. Despite the shortage,
their stance has not changed.

“We still don’t have the confidence in FluMist to
use it. Unless you’re at high risk you
shouldn’t,” said Winfield.

Currently, not many students at the University are among those
at high risk.

According to an email update yesterday by Laura Bauman,
epidemiologist at Washtenaw County Public Health only 27 percent of
reported influenza cases in Washtenaw County have been of people
ages 18-49.

Winfield saw similar results at UHS in the last three days with
less infected students coming in.

For such reasons, CDC has put off calling this year’s
outbreak an epidemic, stating it is too early in the flu season to
tell.

 

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