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September 15th, 2009

TO:    UAlbany Students
FROM:    Peter Vellis, DO
   Medical Director, University Health Center
RE:    If you get the flu...

With the fall semester underway, I want to update you on the "second wave" of the H1N1 virus that you have been hearing so much about. To date, the University Health Center has experienced a 20% increase in visits over this time last year. There have been a few instances of flu-like illness on campus. As of this date, there is nothing that suggests a severe on-set of the flu on campus or in the surrounding community.

That said, with the return of students to campuses across the country, it is expected that many will develop flu-like illness, likely due to the H1N1 virus. Our campus community is no exception and requires our collective efforts as public health citizens to promote our collective health. Symptoms of flu usually come on suddenly and include fever, chills, headache, sore throat, cough, nasal congestion, body aches, vomiting, diarrhea and fatigue. In order to mitigate the impact of H1N1 on campus, I strongly urge you to consider the following:

  1. If you are feeling ill, return home (to your permanent residence) and stay isolated until your fever has been gone for 24 hours. Stay in your room, out of circulation, and at least six feet away from any one who shares your living space until you have been fever-free for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication). This is important for your recovery, as well as the health of others in our community. Drink plenty of fluids, eat small meals, and use Tylenol (not aspirin), throat lozenges, and decongestants to reduce symptoms.
  3. Visit the University's H1N1 website at www.albany.edu/h1n1. The site provides flu care advice so you know what to do if you are feeling ill. A key to helping us track flu-like illness on campus is to self-report instances of such illness. Let the University Health Center know you are ill through the self-reporting site available at www.albany.edu/h1n1.  Please note, it is NOT mandatory that you self-report you are ill, but it is also a way for you to arrange for a flu care kit and/or meals (if you have a meal plan) to be made available to you if you reside on campus.
  5. Wear a surgical mask and separate yourself from others. If you are ill and are unable to return to your permanent residence, as recommended above, consider wearing a surgical mask to limit the spread of germs and always practice social distancing (at least six feet away from others). If you live with others, inform your roommate(s) that you have flu-like illness (probably H1N1). Surgical masks are available if you self-report your illness on the University's H1N1 web site and live on campus. The University Bookstore also has surgical masks in stock along with other flu care supplies and over-the-counter medication.
  6. Be vigilant about your own health. Take recommended precautions to prevent further spread of illness: wash your hands; cover coughs and sneezes; clean shared objects and surfaces; avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes; keep your distance from people who are sick.

Though the vast majority of people with a flu-like illness from H1N1 will be able to treat themselves at home (and do not require a physician's evaluation) certain medical conditions put people at a higher risk of serious complications related to the flu. These include asthma, diabetes, pregnancy, heart, lung, liver, and kidney disease. In addition, people with a medical condition (including use of certain medicines) that suppresses the immune system or those on chronic aspirin therapy as well as those at the extremes of age (younger than 5 years old or older than 65) are also at risk of complications if they become infected with the flu. If you have any of these conditions, and develop flu like symptoms, you should consult with your health care provider or contact the University Health Center.

Furthermore, if you experience any of the following, you should contact the University Health Center immediately.

  • Fever of over 100-degrees lasting for more than three days without improvement;
  • Severe sore throat, accompanied by swollen glands in your neck;
  • Change in level of consciousness;
  • Shortness of breath;
  • Persistent vomiting.

In addition, as information becomes available concerning possible H1N1 vaccination opportunities, I will apprise you of this as soon as possible. In the interim, I urge you to consider being vaccinated for the seasonal flu. The University Health Center is sponsoring the annual flu clinic on November 3, 2009 at the campus center at a cost of $30.

It appears a separate vaccine for the H1N1 virus will become available in mid-October, though initially availability will be limited. UAlbany is in contact with the Albany County Department of Health to determine how best to provide the vaccine to the UAlbany population once it becomes available. When we have more information we will be in contact with you.

Finally, I would ask that you share this message with your parents/guardians as well as family members at other colleges or universities in an effort to get the message out about good health hygiene.