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Health / Safety

If you get H1N1 (from CSU Health Network doctor)

August 28, 2009
By Jane Higgins, M.D.

There has been a lot of talk this fall about H1N1 and the importance of getting ready. While this flu might not cause a more severe illness than typical seasonal flu, there are valid reasons for the increased concern and we hope you'll take a few minutes to learn about them. This is a lengthy advisory but please take a moment to read it - it provides valuable information about what you should do if you develop flu-like symptoms.

What you need to know about why H1N1 flu is important to you

Health officials believe H1N1 flu will cause more illnesses than flu strains in previous years. We’ll also still experience the ‘regular’ seasonal flu, so coupled, these two sources of the flu could impact a fairly high number of students and employees at CSU.

(Image: H1N1 influenza virus from the CDC Influenza Laboratory.)

It’s likely that health resources will be stretched somewhat thin, so it’s especially important that students know how to get prepared for this flu season and how to take care of themselves if they do get sick.

Health officials estimate that as many as 30 percent of the population will be absent from day-to-day activities because of flu this season.

Health officials also continue to be concerned that H1N1 might change and cause illnesses that are more severe than what people are experiencing now. It is unusual that we’re already seeing so many cases of the flu this time of year – with several probable H1N1 cases across campus already. This provides more opportunity for the H1N1 virus to change or combine with the regular seasonal flu and become more serious.

The university's response

At this time, government officials do not recommend that the university suspend classes if there are a large number of flu cases on campus. The university has a plan in place to address a severe flu season. The plan is at www.safety.colostate.edu.

You’ll need to read emails from the university in a timely fashion and visit www.safety.colostate.edu frequently for any updates to the university’s recommendations related to flu.

Communicate with the university if you get the flu

If you think you have the flu, keep in contact with your instructors and advisors. Let them know you are ill BEFORE your big test or assignment is due. If you live on-campus, notify a housing employee such as your Residence Hall Advisor so that arrangements can be made to keep your roommate healthy and to bring you food so you don’t have to leave your room.

The university is working on an online system to help you report your illness and notify your instructors more easily. The system is expected to be completed by Friday, Sept. 4, and available through RAMweb.

Flu reporting page online

When this system becomes available, if you feel ill with flu-like symptoms, you will be able to log onto RAMweb and fill out the flu reporting page. This system will document your illness in order to help the university keep track of ill students and notify your instructors of your illness.

(Image: CDC's diagnostic test to detect novel H1N1 virus.)

This website will help give you guidance about severity of symptoms and your options. Your response on this website will help expedite the process of being able to make academic arrangements for missed work.

Faculty members will require the illness verification from this website so they can work with you on rescheduling exams or other make-up work. Through the website, faculty will receive a case number documenting your illness and will be able to verify that illness with the university. It is important that you finish all of the steps on the website so that the documentation is completed. You also should revisit the site when you are well and log the information that you are able to attend classes again.

How to take care of yourself or someone else with H1N1

Most of the symptoms of H1N1 flu are identical to symptoms of the seasonal flu. Those symptoms are:

  • fever
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • body aches
  • headache
  • chills
  • fatigue

People infected with H1N1 flu virus may also have diarrhea and vomiting.

Some college-aged people who get this flu may become ill enough to be hospitalized. We know that if you get H1N1, there is a strong chance that you’ll feel miserable for 5 to 7 days, and we want you to know how to take care of yourself and when to go to the doctor.

If you have the flu, try to isolate yourself from others – such as your roommates – as much as possible. For more advice about getting through the flu, visit http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/sick.htm. Most students will not need to see a doctor during their illness. Those with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, immunosuppression or asthma, should consult their doctor if they think they have flu.

Danger signs

If you have any of the following danger signs, you should call the CSU Health Network at (970) 491-7121 as soon as possible or dial 911 if you think you need immediate emergency help:

  • You become short of breath while resting or doing very little
  • You are coughing up bloody sputum
  • You are wheezing
  • You have had a fever for three or four days and you are not getting better – or you may be getting worse
  • You and others notice that you are extremely drowsy and difficult to wake up or that you are disoriented or confused
  • You have extreme pain in your ear
  • You are vomiting and cannot keep fluids down

If you are caring for someone with the flu, visit http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/guidance_homecare.htm for more information about how to protect yourself and others.

Be ready for H1N1 flu

The Centers for Disease Control recommend that you:

  • Buy a thermometer. A fever is a temperature of more than 99.6 degrees. If you have the flu, you need to stay away from other people until at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without taking fever-reducing medicines.
  • Off-campus students should store two weeks of food in their home, if possible. Stock up so you have enough food to get through the flu if you don’t feel well enough to get to the store. Don’t forget to store enough food for your pets as well.
  • Have some fluids with electrolytes, such as sports drinks, on hand. 
  • Keep an adequate supply of regular prescription drugs.
  • Keep some basic health supplies on hand such as over-the-counter cold and flu medicine, pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough medicine and hand sanitizer. 
  • Have cleaning supplies, especially bleach or cleaners containing bleach.

Get a "flu buddy"

The University also is recommending that students prepare for the flu by getting a “flu buddy.” You and your buddy should check in on and help the other if one of you is ill. You might want to have your buddy help you to report your illness on the online system.

The best defense against the flu is to:

  • wash your hands frequently with soap and water
  • cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue
  • avoid touching your face
  • avoid people who are sick
  • stay home if think you have the flu

Get a flu shot

The best way to prevent flu is to get a flu shot. Seasonal flu shots will be available in early September; H1N1 shots will be available to priority groups in late October. Shots will be available to students in several locations around campus.

For more information, visit the CSU Health Network.