Influenza Information & Prevention

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Dear Muhlenberg College Faculty, Staff, and Students,

As we begin the spring semester, we are aware that influenza activity continues to be widespread in most of the United States, including Pennsylvania.  Muhlenberg College’s Pandemic Influenza Response Team (which has been in existence for many years) is closely monitoring our local and regional flu activity and following recommendations from both the CDC and our local health bureau to best address flu issues on our campus.  We would like to take this opportunity to inform you of how the college is addressing the seasonal flu on our campus.

First, influenza vaccination is the best protection against the flu.  So far, according to the CDC, this year's North American vaccine matches well with the most predominant type of flu virus, which is the influenza A (H3N2) virus, spreading in the United States.  However, the match for influenza B viruses, the second-most common this season, isn't as good.   According to the director of the CDC, overall effectiveness of the flu vaccine this season is about 62%.  It is not too late to get the flu vaccine this year.  When vaccine becomes available, Health Services will offer the seasonal flu shot.  We will post information about our flu clinics on this website.  It is not necessary to call Health Services to schedule appointments for the flu shots.  The flu shots will be administered on a first come/ first serve basis when we receive them.  Additionally, there are several local drugstore chains and discount stores that are still offering flu shots, and the Allentown Health Bureau is still administering the vaccine as well. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu.  Please refer to the following website for flu vaccination clinics:  http://flushot.healthmap.org/

Second, influenza is thought to be spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of affected people.  However, direct contact is also a possible mode of transmission.  In response to this, the college has installed a significant number of instant hand sanitizers in traditionally high traffic areas in buildings throughout campus where water is not available.  We have also posted signs throughout campus on the importance of hand washing, cough etiquette, and seasonal flu information. 

Everyone is encouraged to take the following measures to prevent the transmission of infection on campus:

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and warm water or use alcohol based hand sanitizers when water is not available.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with a tissue or sleeve.
  • Avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Get adequate sleep and good nutrition.  Do not smoke or drink excessive alcohol.

Flu-like illness is associated with symptoms such as fever, cough, runny nose, muscle aches, and sore throat. Anyone with flu-like illness should follow self-isolation guidelines and should not be present in classes or any public gatherings, including eating within the dining halls or use of the student union, library, classrooms, labs, studios, or offices during illness   We encourage ill persons to stay home during the period of convalescence until 24 hours after they no longer have a fever.  Most absences due to the flu will be approximately one week or less.
If you have any questions, you may contact Health Services at 484-664-3199 or Human Resources at 484-664-3165.
Sincerely,

Brynnmarie Dorsey                               John Ramsay                            Anne W. Speck
Director, Health Services                      Provost                                    VP for Human Resources

Faculty
All are encouraged to follow prescribed methods to prevent the transmission of infection on campus. 
Obviously, the possibility of absenteeism will have an impact on your semester.  We encourage you to make every reasonable effort to enable students to complete their courses while being cognizant that it is imperative that infected students minimize the spread of disease as much as possible by social isolation.  Therefore, we are asking that you:

  • Monitor students for influenza like illness and reinforce self isolation with your students. Remind students that in balancing public health and class attendance, public health must carry the greatest weight.
  • Establish a reasonable timeline and means (email or telephone) through which students can inform you that they have flu-like symptoms and will be missing classes.
  • Provide students with a reasonable opportunity to make-up missed work.
  • Do not ask or expect to receive a note from Health Services regarding missed classes or any type of physician note regarding absences due to the flu. 

Faculty should alert appropriate officials in their departments as soon as possible to inform them that they will be absent and/or to identify possible substitutes

Students
All are encouraged to follow prescribed methods to prevent the transmission of infection on campus. 

If you have a sudden onset of body aches, a fever of 100°F or greater, a cough and/or a sore throat, you may have the flu.  Students should go to Health Services to be evaluated and possibly tested for influenza.  Health Services is able to do rapid flu tests in the office, with results known in about 10 minutes; the cost for this test is $20. 

If students have the flu or flu-like illness, they:

  • are expected to rest and not attend classes.  They may return to class 24 hours after the fever has ended without the use of fever reducing medications.
  • are responsible for notifying their professors by email that they are missing class due to the flu. 
  • should notify Health Services (484-664-3199) and
  • should remain in contact with Health Services throughout the course of the disease
  • An on call registered nurse is also available by telephone when the Health Center is closed.  Please call Campus Safety (484-664-3110) and ask to speak with the on call nurse.
  • may request from Health Services a diet recommendation slip to get a Student Illness Care Kit Meal (S.I.C.K. Meal) from the Wood Dining Commons.  Have a roommate or friend present your meal card and diet recommendation slip from Student Health Services to the Manager of the Wood Dining Commons and received needed food items.

Health Services will also supply ill students with flu kits, which contain acetaminophen, ibuprofen, sore throat lozenges, and a surgical face mask.  We ask that the ill student wear the face mask whenever he or she comes within 6 feet of another person (including walking through hallways and in the residence halls). 

Staff
All are encouraged to follow prescribed methods to prevent the transmission of infection on campus. 
We encourage ill faculty and staff to stay home during the period of convalescence until 24 hours after they no longer have a fever.  Given the contagiousness of the seasonal flu, employees are asked to prepare for the possibility of significant absences in departments throughout the college during flu season. 
Supervisors, in particular, are asked to take the following actions:

  • Monitor employees for influenza-like illness and send ill employees home
  • Reinforce with staff members that in balancing public health and work duties, public health considerations must carry the greatest weight
  • Do not require staff reporting flu-like symptoms to submit a health care provider’s certification, unless the need for a doctor’s note is established with Human Resources
  • Identify the essential functions of your unit and cross train employees to be able to fulfill these essential functions in case of absenteeism
  • Permit employees to use vacation days (without advance notice) or personal days (non-exempt employees) as necessary to care for ill family members who are experiencing flu-like symptoms
  • Permit employees who are absent due to flu-like illness who have expended all accumulated paid time off to use future sick and vacation time prior to actual accrual.
  • Consider alternate work schedules and telecommuting where feasible to facilitate social distancing when employees in the group are experiencing flu-like symptoms
  • Remind employees that ill children are not to be brought to campus.
  • Encourage staff members to have hand sanitizer available at their work sites for themselves and visitors to use 
  • Request Clorox wipes through the Work Order system for employees to use to sanitize work surfaces and door knobs on a regular basis.

Contact us

  • Health Services
    484-664-3199
  • Campus Safety
    484-664-3110