UW-Whitewater makes plans for the flu season
COLLEGE VACCINATION CLINICS
UW-Whitewater is offering walk-in seasonal flu vaccination clinics Tuesday and Wednesday.
The clinic for high-risk students is from 8 a.m. to noon Tuesday. The clinic for the general campus is from 8 a.m. to noon Wednesday.
The cost for the vaccine is $15.
Beloit College offered seasonal flu vaccine clinics this past week.
WHITEWATER UW-Whitewater is urging students who fall ill with the flu—whether it’s swine flu or the seasonal flu—to go home and stay home until they feel better.
Beloit College has a similar policy.
But if sick students can’t leave campus, the schools have designated isolation areas in residence halls.
“We certainly are watching things very closely,” said Ruth Swisher, director of health services at University Health and Counseling Services at UW-Whitewater. “We’re looking at the various scenarios that might play out. We’re looking at the ‘what ifs.’”
UW-Whitewater has seen more than a dozen students with symptoms that, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control, indicate they might be suffering from the swine flu rather than the seasonal flu.
UW-Whitewater is not testing students to confirm if they have swine flu, Swisher said. They simply are assuming that students with high fevers and other characteristic symptoms have the H1N1 virus because the seasonal flu has not yet arrived, she said.
Beloit College has not had any reported cases of ill students, said Susan Kasten, assistant director of communications and marketing.
The schools are encouraging students to take precautions to stay healthy, such as washing hands often, sneezing and coughing properly and knowing the symptoms of the flu.
UW-Whitewater and Beloit College health officials want students who have flu symptoms to get home by car, not by bus, plane or other forms of public transportation.
“They need to be back home to have the rest time their body needs, and they need to reduce their exposure to other people,” Swisher said.
UW-Whitewater and Beloit College officials still are working out the details on they would respond to a swing flu outbreak.
For a minor outbreak, both schools plan to rely on mass messaging, whether by phone or e-mail, to inform students of important announcements. Some professors, if they are ill or if enough students in their classes are ill, might cancel classes. Others might make lessons and assignments available online so students can keep up with their classes, school officials said.
But if there is a major swine flu outbreak, both schools plan to work with county, state and federal health officials to determine if the campuses should be shut down, officials said. UW-Whitewater also is taking some direction from the UW System, Swisher said.
UW-Whitewater and Beloit College officials hope the schools will get swine flu vaccine when it becomes available so they can set up vaccination clinics.
UW-Whitewater and Beloit College have ramped up communication with staff, students and parents regarding the flu and have increased their supplies of alcohol-based hand sanitizer and disinfectant surface cleaner.
Both schools have sent information to students, especially those who live in residence halls on campus, advising them to learn about the seasonal flu and the swine flu.
UW-Whitewater health officials, for example, have encouraged students have a basic health kit that includes a thermometer, pain reliever and any prescribed medications they are taking, Swisher said.
The schools also are posting information about flu symptoms and prevention around campus and online. UW-Whitewater has a page on its Web site dedicated to communications about the flu.
“There are lots of supplies around here that are being provided, as well as a general awareness, which is probably the most important thing,” Kasten said.
It appears students are getting the message.
Kasten said she’s heard a lot of buzz about it around the Beloit College campus.
“It’s being talked about a lot,” she said. “It’s definitely out there.”
Swisher said lots of students have stopped in the health services office for information.
“There certainly have been a lot of questions, and that’s a good thing,” she said. “And we’re trying to take advantage of those teachable moments, telling them about the symptoms and what might come down the pike.”
Officials at both schools said they are taking swine flu planning seriously.
“There’s a lot of planning that might never get put into place … but we are taking it seriously,” Swisher said. “We’re trying to be as ready as we can for something that has so many unknowns.”