Fighting the flu

The flu season is here—and it’s likely H1N1 according to the provincial health authorities monitoring the situation in the province. UVic Health Services is seeing an increasing number of students coming to its clinic with flu-like symptoms, and the BC Centre for Disease Control says it considers 98 to 99 per cent of all flu cases to be H1N1.

“Students who are ill should visit to recognize flu symptoms, learn how to care for themselves and understand when it is appropriate to seek medical advice from a physician,” says Dr. Bill Dyson, director of UVic Health Services.“ After hours, they can contact the BC Nurse Hotline at 8-1-1 or the Health Services physician on call for assistance. “Most of the cases we have seen thus far have been mild and have not required a doctor’s visit.”

The university is not experiencing widespread student absenteeism, and Dyson says it’s important to continue to practice good hygiene to slow the spread of the disease. “I’m worried that as more cases develop, people may stop washing their hands so frequently or coughing into their sleeves because they think catching the flu is inevitable,” he says. “But it’s still very important to maintain these good practices to slow the spread of the virus. Hopefully we can blunt the anticipated spike in cases and therefore better manage those serious cases that will appear.”

Students who are absent from classes for less than two weeks do not need to provide a letter giving a medical reason for their absence to their instructors. “Given the situation with H1N1, we decided it was best to relax this requirement for the fall term,” says UVic’s Associate VP of Academic Planning Katy Mateer.

UVic’s H1N1 planning group continues to meet regularly to monitor the situation on campus and liaise with public health authorities. A representative from the Vancouver Island Health Authority toured the campus recently to view sites that would be suitable for a community immunization clinic.

“We showed the representative some sites that they could use when the H1N1 vaccine becomes available and availability protocols are in place, but no plans have been made about clinics yet,” says UVic Occupational Health, Safety and Environment Director Richard Piskor “We’ll continue to update the campus community through the UVic H1N1 website about clinic developments."

Some cases of flu have been reported in UVic Child Care Services, and parents are reminded to keep their children at home if they are displaying flu-like symptoms. “Despite our best efforts to increase our cleaning and encourage good hygiene among the children, this is a group that is very vulnerable to the flu, given that kids like to play together and share toys,” says Jim Dunsdon, associate vice-president student affairs. “We ask that parents continue to encourage good hygiene with their children, so we can slow the spread of the disease.”

Seasonal influenza vaccine will not be available on campus this fall. The province announced last month that seasonal flu vaccine will only be provided to those over 65 and to residents of care facilities, since this segment of the population appears less vulnerable to H1N1 but more vulnerable to seasonal flu.

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