Health Update: Campus Takes Action Against H1-N1

As first-years moved onto the Colgate campus last week, Adjunct Professor of the Health Sciences and Director of Student Health Services Dr. Merrill Miller was eager to present first-years with her plan to steer the campus clear of the novel H1N1 flu this fall. Mini bottles of waterless hand sanitizer have been passed out. Furthermore, students were reminded of cough etiquette, washing their hands and being careful about touching their faces, and so on. Now, Miller is gearing up to spread this message to the rest of student body.

Miller has been meeting weekly with Director of Environmental Health and Safety Mike Gladle and Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Scott Brown to map out Colgate’s plan for avoiding and dealing with the novel H1N1 flu.

“We have done everything we felt was necessary so far,” Brown said.

In addition to their own meetings, Brown explained that the three have been discussing the issue with “an emergency management group that works constantly to make the campus even safer.”

“The group’s role is to think about how to both educate and respond to everything from a power outage to a pandemic,” Brown said.

The group has representative members from almost every department on campus, including Buildings and Grounds, Information Technology Services and various facilities.

As well as spending the summer preparing campus for a potential outbreak, Miller’s team has had time to come up with Colgate’s new health motto, “Don’t let the flu get to you.” This slogan is supported by a poster campaign, which is partially funded by the Wellness Initiative. The posters have been put up all over campus and are meant to remind and educate members of the Colgate community about illness prevention tactics.

This fall, as always, stations will be set up on campus where students will have the opportunity to receive the flu vaccine at a cost of 15 dollars. The clinic has decided to start vaccinating as early as September this year, much sooner than usual.

This decision was made in anticipation of the novel H1N1 flu vaccine that is currently being developed. Miller has high hopes that the vaccine will be ready and available by late November, at which time it will be administered on campus for free to any student who wishes to receive it.

According to Miller, the prevention aspect of the school’s plan for dealing with the novel H1N1 flu will help faculty and students nip any potential outbreak in the bud.

“We don’t have bubbles around everyone, but we do have to protect ourselves as much as possible,” Miller said.

Miller is a strong advocate of the idea that “people are part of prevention,” urging healthy people to stay healthy and encouraging those who have fallen ill to be cautious not to spread their sickness. To ensure the latter, all Residential Advisors and Campus Safety officers have been given facemasks that sick students should wear to avoid spreading germs. Furthermore, isolation rooms have been arranged to house anyone who contracts the novel H1N1 flu virus.

“There are two prongs to our plan: one is basic education, the “don’t let the flu get to you” campaign. The other part is being in good shape in case something does happen,” Brown said.

In the event of a large-scale outbreak, there is currently enough Tamiflu in the clinic to treat 200 students in full, or else give a starter dose to 1000. This supply was one of the costlier efforts in the prevention plan since each complete dose of Tamiflu is priced at 80 dollars.

There is also space for 40 to 50 people in predetermined isolation units, although, if necessary, arrangements can be made for more places. When probed about the likelihood of students being willing to admit to their illness with the knowledge that this could result in isolation, Brown expressed hope that students would realize how important isolation is to every member of Colgate University.

“I don’t think anyone will want to be isolated, but we must try to impress upon people what is at stake,” Brown said.

Although both Brown and Miller are hoping that their prevention plan will keep the novel H1N1 flu under control or eliminate the threat altogether, they want to make sure Colgate is prepared for the worst case scenario.

“We’re a community, and in the event of an outbreak we will take good care of each other,” Miller said.