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Departments battle an early flu & norovirus

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The door that  leads to the Counseling Center and Health Services. (Photo Courtesy of Drew.edu)

The door that leads to the Counseling Center and Health Services. (Photo Courtesy of Drew.edu)

This year, an earlier-than-expected starting date for the flu season marks a change for the sickly. Multiple departments on campus are doing the best they can to have the situation under control, but they insist that individual care is the best weapon against the flu.

Director of Health Services Joyce Maglione explained the many measures taken in order to ensure that before students arrived on campus, a plan was set to prevent the spread of the disease. “The first thing we did was sent an e-mail to all students before arriving on campus, telling them to get vaccinated or if ill, to remain at home,” Maglione said. “We have to follow CDC guidelines, and because the flu came earlier this year than most, we had to take action fast.”

Next, an information session was held in mid-January, and contact was made with other departments. “There was an e-mail sent to other departments on campus that explained that something had to be done to prepare—departments like Facilities and Housing, for example,” she said. Once the e-mail was sent, individual departments began to make preparations for what was coming Drew’s way. In particular, Facilities has played a major role in the flu prevention “game” by providing what best protects against the illness: hand sanitizer.

“The main buildings on campus were re-stocked with hand sanitizer dispensers as this is the main form of prevention – besides washing one’s hands,” Maglione clarified. Executive Director of Facilities Mike Kopas also commented on what Facilities did to aid in the fight against the flu spreading. “Making sure the hand sanitizing dispensers are filled is only one part of a protocol we use when potential flu outbreaks like this arise,” Kopas said.

“We also directed the custodial staff to use approved disinfectants on all heavily used surfaces that could transmit the disease from person-to-person such as door handles and knobs, door push plates, faucets, paper towel dispensers, toilet flush handles, etc.,” he continued. Residence Life has also played an important role in raising flu awareness on campus. Director of Residence Life and Community Standards Stewart Robinette commented on how Resident Assistants (RAs) have worked to make sure residents know how to take care of themselves.

“RAs went over flu information at their first floor meeting with residents” Robinette said. The RAs have posted flyers created by Health Services in order to help educate residents about ways to prevent contracting the flu. Maglione added, “RAs also told students that if they had the flu to begin to ‘self-isolate’ themselves from others. Self-isolation is meant to prevent the spread of the disease until the person is better.”

“The roommate is given the option to relocate for a few days,” she said. “If their roommates cannot locate to another dorm for a period of time, then guest rooms are provided by Housing, but severe cases like these have not occurred,” Maglione said. She also suggested that “the person who is sick then has a designated buddy bring them food and leave it outside of their dorm room to minimize contact with the illness.” However, as to what the responsibilities should be for the afflicted, she said the following, “the person is responsible for e-mailing and meeting with professors to make sure course material is covered.”

She also informed that  Health Services provides students with kits that include Kleenex and lozenges, among other things , needed to take care of oneself. “The person who is sick is encouraged to go home to recuperate,” Maglione informed. “They are also encouraged to take over the counter medication, like pain killers.”

The concern is not centered around the severity of the flu strains in this case, but that the flu has come faster than was expected. “The flu this year is very typical so there really isn’t much of a difference in comparison to past years,” Maglione said. Health Services also has its own recommendations for what students should be doing to remain healthy.

“Students should get vaccinated during this time. The entire stock of the vaccine was distributed, so Drew doesn’t have any more shots. But there are other places around that do have it,” she said. “Students should also read the information on Drew’s website and most importantly wash their hands constantly. Hand sanitizer may defeat the flu, but the norovirus, a gastrointestinal virus, can only be prevented by using soap.”

To this Kopas added, “We will do whatever we can from a Facilities standpoint, but that does not diminish the need for everyone on campus to be diligent and wash their hands frequently and not cross contaminate once someone is sick.”