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New flu guidelines for college students

August 20, 2009 |  3:31 pm

College students should stop going to class and even miss examinations if they feel symptoms of the flu, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials told college administrators and students today.

If an ill student lives close to home he or she should strongly consider leaving campus -- preferably by private car or taxi rather than public transportation -- to stay with his or her parents until they are well, according to the newly released guidelines, which coincide with the start of the academic year on American college campuses.

If students can’t return home, they should set up a “flu buddy scheme” with a friend, who would be able to bring in meals to the sick student’s room, to avoid infecting others with the flu virus, the CDC said.

The transmission of flu in the college setting is of concern in part because communicable diseases spread quickly, particularly in student housing areas. The CDC’s recommendations came a day after national and local public health officials said employers should brace for worker absences and cautioned the public that as many as three shots may be needed to protect against the seasonal and swine flu strains.

Other CDC recommendations for college students and administrators:

•    If close contact with others cannot be avoided, the ill student should be asked to wear a surgical mask when dealing with others.

•    Campuses should consider providing temporary, alternate housing for ill students for those who cannot leave campus or do not have a private room.

•    Consider altering policies on missed classes, exams and late assignments so students do not feel pressured to attend class or take exams while sick.

•    Lift requirements for a doctor’s note to validate excuses, as many doctors will be busy.

•    Discourage sick people from going to football games or concerts until fever and other flu symptoms cease for 24 hours.

•    Frequently clean surfaces that are commonly touched -- bathrooms, doorknobs, elevator buttons, tables, keyboards, remote controls and desks.

•    Provide disposable wipes so those surfaces can be wiped down by students before each use.

•    Consider instructing students online if the flu becomes severe.

•    Be prepared for CDC recommendations to suspend classes if the flu starts to worsen in larger populations.

-- Rong-Gong Lin II

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