There is no emergency at this moment.
H1N1 (Swine) Flu Vaccine Available in Our Health Center.
We will be giving H1N1 flu shots to adult (18 yrs or older) family members of faculty, staff, and HSMC staff who are at increased risk from complications from the H1N1 flu. This includes those with cancer, blood disorders, asthma and other chronic lung disease, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disorders, seizure disorders, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, HIV or AIDS as well as those who are on medications that weaken the immune system. We will also vaccinate family members who are health care providers and who are not able to obtain the vaccine at their place of employment.
We will be vaccinating this group for one evening only and the staff or faculty member must call ahead to put their family member on the list.
If you have a family member who meets these criteria, please call the Counseling and Health Center front desk (x4289) by December 1.
A Letter from the Dean of Students about the H1N1 (Novel) Virus
Dear St. Mary's Community,
The Emergency Response Team and two task forces have been meeting over the summer to plan for the possibility that the H1N1 (Novel) virus (formerly known as Swine Flu) affects St. Mary's College either on campus or in our international programs. The faculty and staff have received guidance about how to plan should the Novel virus impact their classes, their offices, or themselves. Students received a hard-copy of a letter along with To the Point, the student handbook, and the 7-step emergency response card. If the H1N1 strain that occurs in the fall is more virulent than the strain currently causing illness, recommendations will be modified and could become more stringent. We will work with the Health Department, the State of Maryland, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to determine the appropriate action.
This illness is more prevalent in adolescents and young adults up to 25 years-of-age than in any other age group. An August 25, 2009 Washington Post article reported the possibility that an estimated 50% of the United States population might be affected by the H1N1 virus this fall and winter, according to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. The CDC has published a general information web site so that you can have access to up-to-the-minute information about the progress of the Novel virus. There is also a special section of the CDC web site that provides information to schools about the Novel virus.
The most important things the CDC recommends to colleges are to:
1) Encourage and facilitate use of hand hygiene and covering your cough
2) Encourage influenza vaccination
3) Separate ill and well people as soon as possible
The Heath Center has information about H1N1 flu on its web page, and we will update it as circumstances change.
Here are some details for each of the three CDC recommendations:
1) Please frequently wash your hands with soap and warm water, and cover your cough with your sleeve! These are the most basic ways to protect yourself and others from contracting the Novel virus. St. Mary's will provide plenty of soap and water in public bathrooms, and hand sanitizer in the Great Room and computer labs. You may want to purchase hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes for your own personal use.
2) Get vaccinated for the seasonal flu. If a large number of students, faculty, and staff are vaccinated for the seasonal flu, it may minimize circulation of H1N1 and seasonal influenza within our campus, thereby minimizing the opportunity for genetic reassortment. It will also reduce the incidence of false positive H1N1 self-reports among people with flu-like symptoms from seasonal flu. SMCM is hosting a flu-shot clinic on October 1st in DPC. Shots will be $27, and are for the regular seasonal flu. There is no vaccine yet available for H1N1. Health Services will also keep our community informed about the availability of flu clinics in Southern Maryland.
3) If you are experiencing influenza-like symptoms, stay home from school or work. Influenza-like (flu-like) illness is defined as a fever plus cough and/or sore throat. However, some people with influenza will not have fever. Therefore, absence of fever does not mean absence of infection. As of today, the CDC recommends that students, faculty, and staff who develop fever ≥ 100ºF and respiratory symptoms stay home from work and school as per CDC recommendations (currently for 24 hours after fever has resolved without the use of fever-reducing medications). Residential students who develop flu-like illness will be sent home if they can get there by private transportation.
If you are at increased risk for the complications from flu, please let the Health Center know by e-mailing Carla Blanton. This will allow the campus to track the number of students, faculty, and staff at increased risk so we can respond more effectively, and if the number is sufficient, we may rise on the list of sites prioritized to receive the H1N1 vaccine when it is available. Groups that are at higher risk on complications from flu if they get sick include: children younger than age 5; people age 65 or older; children and adolescents (younger than age 18) who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy and who might be at risk for experiencing Reye's syndrome after flu virus infection; pregnant women; adults and children who have asthma, other chronic pulmonary, cardiovascular, hepatic, hematological, neurologic, neuromuscular, or metabolic disorders such as diabetes; and adults and children with immunosuppression (including immunosuppression caused by medications or by HIV). People age 65 and older, however, appear to be at lower risk of 2009 H1N1 infection compared to younger people. But, if older adults do get sick from flu, they are at increased risk of having a severe illness.
Promptly seek medical attention if you have a medical condition that places you at increased risk of influenza-related complications, are concerned about illness, or develop severe symptoms. Severe symptoms include increased fever, shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure, rapid respirations, cyanosis (bluish skin color), vomiting, dizziness, or confusion.
Note that standard class absence policies and college staff sick leave policies apply for individual cases of the Novel virus. For class absences, faculty are working to build some flexibility into their classes. Be sure to ask them about their plans for your classes. If you must miss more than the acceptable number of classes, keep your faculty member in the loop and strategize together about how to make up the work. Remember, you are responsible for the work required in your courses even though you may be sick. For work absences, follow the standard sick leave processes in your work environment. In the unlikely event that there is a widespread outbreak on campus, information will be forthcoming using the emergency response communication methods (e-mail, web site, College voicemail to landlines, staff instructions, posters).
So what can you do to prepare as an individual? Please review these guidelines about what to do if you are experiencing an Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) and about how to lessen the spread of flu in the living environment. You will find more detail on the CDC web site with the links provided in this letter.
If you have an Influenza-Like Illness (ILI), do not go to class or to public gathering places like the Great Room. Contact your faculty member, the Health Center at 240.895.4289, and arrange for your friends to bring meals to you. Follow CDC self-isolation guidelines. If you live on campus, consider leaving campus and returning home to recover. The CDC recommends isolation until at least 24 hours after fever has resolved.
How does Novel H1N1 virus spread?
Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing by people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something - such as a surface or object - with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.
Take these everyday steps to protect your health:
- Cover your nose and mouth with your sleeve or with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective. The CDC recommends that when you wash your hands - with soap and warm water - you wash for 15 to 20 seconds. When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used. If using gel, rub your hands until the gel is dry. The gel doesn't need water to work; the alcohol in it kills the germs on your hands.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
What is the best way to keep from spreading the virus through coughing or sneezing?
If you are sick with flu-like illness, the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) Keep away from others as much as possible. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Put your used tissue in the waste basket. Then, clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or sneeze.
What are the signs and symptoms of this virus in people?
The symptoms of Novel H1N1 flu virus in people include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. A significant number of people who have been infected with this virus also have reported diarrhea and vomiting. Severe illnesses and death have occurred as a result of illness associated with this virus.
In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
When providing care to a member in your living environment who is sick with influenza, the most important ways to protect yourself and others who are not sick are to:
- Avoid close contact (less than about 6 feet away) with the sick person as much as possible
- Keep the sick person away from other people as much as possible (the sick person should avoid common areas)
- Remind the sick person to cover their coughs, and clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub often, especially after coughing and/or sneezing
- Have everyone in the living environment clean their hands often, using soap and warm water or an alcohol-based hand rub.