University issues flu updates to students, staff and faculty

The University of St. Thomas continued to monitor the H1N1 influenza outbreak over the summer and recently has sent letters with updated information to all students, parents of undergraduates, faculty and to staff.

Each of the letters, along with other H1N1-related news, can be found on the St. Thomas Pandemic Planning Web site. This is the central point used by the university to make announcements related to the influenza outbreak.

"As I said when we saw the first cases of this virus back in the spring, I don't want anybody to be alarmed, but I do want everybody to be prepared," President Obama said last week.  "We know that we usually get a second, larger wave of these flu viruses in the fall."

In preparing its response to the outbreak, St. Thomas has remained in close contact with the Minnesota Department of Health, according to Madonna McDermott, director of Student Health Service and Wellness Center, Daniel Meuwissen, director of Public Safety, and Colin Brownlow, director of Environmental Health and Safety.

St. Thomas officials have approved two plans based on state and federal guidelines. The first plan -- outlined in the recent letters to students, staff and faculty -- remains in effect based on the current flu environment.  Should the pandemic grow more severe over the course of the school year, a second and more detailed plan could be implemented.

"We continue to emphasize the importance of preventing the spread of influenza by staying home from school and work if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms such as sore throat, headache, fever, cough and body aches," explained McDermott.

The measures below can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza.

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or cough or sneeze into your sleeve. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners also are effective.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

• Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

• If you get sick with influenza, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them. Students living on or near campus should contact Student Health Services for advice.

Other resources are:

U.S. Government:

World Health Organization:

If you missed it, KSTP Channel 5 carried a news story in late August about St. Thomas' preparations. You can view it here.

For additional questions, contact the St. Thomas Student Health Service at (651) 962-6750.

Staff and faculty also can call the FirstHelp Nurse Advice Line if they have health-related questions or think they might need to see a health-care professional. They can call toll free 800-622-9524 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and talk to a nurse.