On April 26, 2009, the U.S. government announced a public health state of emergency regarding H1N1 influenza which has impacted persons in several countries around the world. In June, the World Health Organization (WHO) raised the pandemic threat level from 5 to 6, the highest designation, signaling that there has been substantial "community transmission" on multiple continents.
Members of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) administration are meeting regularly about the situation and are taking appropriate action as required by our Pandemic Influenza Plan. Our Pandemic Plan has been in place since the avian flu was deemed a threat some years ago.
In matters of health, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts is governed by the Forsyth County Department of Public Health. We also are constantly monitoring the situation with regard to information released from the U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. UNCSA Student Health Services is monitoring the progression of H1N1 influenza and will inform students, faculty, and staff as conditions warrant.
The second wave of H1N1 flu on the UNCSA campus is dissipating. There have been one or fewer reported cases on campus each week since returning from Christmas break in January. Because H1N1 is a pandemic one more wave is to be expected. Campus health services and emergency management are keeping an eye on this to ensure we are on-top of the situation if/when it does occur. Although the numbers of cases of ILI are diminishing it is important to continue the hygiene practices which have been recommended.
UNCSA experienced what appeared to be our first cases of H1N1 flu in early September, after high school students arrived on campus for academic classes, but before college students arrived. The cases were not confirmed by laboratory testing, because the CDC has advised that health centers no longer test patients to confirm H1N1 unless they are hospitalized. If a person has an influenza-like-illnesses (ILI), in all likelihood it is H1N1. So that’s what we’re calling it, and we are treating it as such. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reports that the 2009-2010 H1N1 strain of flu accounts for more than 99 percent of all flu currently circulating in the state and the country.
As H1N1 has spread, the numbers of confirmed or probable cases are no longer being reported at the state or national levels. Accordingly, UNCSA has no way to know the total number of H1N1 cases affecting our students, faculty and staff.
However, public health authorities currently track the number of cases of Influenza-like Illnesses (ILI) through reports of influenza-like illness seen in designated clinics each week. Every Monday, UNCSA’s Health Services reports summary statistics about cases of ILIs seen in its clinic during the previous week; these numbers are reported to UNC General Administration. As of Oct. 1, our Health Services began seeing a marked increase in the number of patients with influenza-like-illnesses (ILI). For specific numbers, see the table here. For information about ILI cases statewide, visit the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ website: http://www.flu.ncdhhs.gov/epi/gcdc/flu.html.
We are also asking students who present with an influenza-like-illness to go home or off-campus for a period of 5 days to recover from the flu. We are asking any student who is unable to go home or find off-campus housing to the Health Services, as there is some limited isolation housing available. Students will not be penalized for missing class, rehearsals, etc., because of the flu. We have a system in place for reporting them as excused absences.
Faculty and staff presenting with influenza-like-illness must stay away from work and campus until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever without the use of fever reducing medicines. Faculty and staff will not be penalized for missing work with the flu. Employees may use accrued leave such as sick time, comp time, vacation, or bonus vacation for their time away from the office or classroom.
See “Instructions for Students, Faculty, and Staff Presenting Flu-Like Illness” below for more information.
We are fortunate that the H1N1 virus is less virulent than first thought. The vast majority of cases are mild, lasting 3-5 days. H1N1 appears no more severe than most seasonal flu.
As a first step toward flu prevention, Health Services is encouraging all students, faculty and staff to receive both their annual seasonal flu shot and the newer H1N1 vaccine.
Health Services has run out of the seasonal flu vaccine and will not be receiving any more. Students, faculty, and staff who want to receive the seasonal flu vaccine and who did not already receive it from Health Services will need to visit their primary care physician.
UNCSA has received its first shipment of H1N1 vaccine. The vaccine we received is a live, attenuated intranasal vaccine and is sprayed into the nose. We received a limited number of doses; thus, employees designated as "Tier 1 Essential Employees" will be the first to receive it. As we receive more vaccine, we will release information on how it will be offered for distribution among our general student population, as well as faculty and staff.
Everyone should assume that the H1N1 virus is in your environment and you should take precautions. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. If a tissue is not available, use your sleeve, not your hand, to cover your mouth. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. (Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used if soap and water are not available.) Regular cleansers such as Lysol and Clorox wipes will also kill flu germs on surfaces.