The University of North Georgia (UNG) is distributing tools and information to students, faculty and staff to prevent a local outbreak of the widespread influenza epidemic gripping the nation. With more than 15,000 students and hundreds of employees across its four campuses, a major outbreak at the university would have a significant impact on operations.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 43 states reported intense flu activity during the final week of December, and the Georgia Department of Public Health recorded nearly 500 hospitalizations due to flu and a rate of flu outpatient visits nearly four times greater than the seasonal average. As of Jan. 2, there have been 13 confirmed flu-associated deaths in the state.
There were fewer than 10 cases of flu diagnosed by UNG's Student Health Services clinic during the fall semester, according to Karen Tomlinson, director of Student Health Services. Those students were asked to remain off campus for a week or until symptoms resolve, per UNG policy.
"This helps prevent the spread of the virus in our campus community," Tomlinson said. "Their professors are notified of the 'excused' absence but not the diagnosis; this assists with the students being able to make up anything missed in class and hopefully help keep them successful with their academics."
Automatic hand-sanitizer dispensers are available across UNG's Gainesville and Oconee campuses, and they are being deployed on the Dahlonega Campus as well, according to Adam Strzemienski, captain of emergency preparedness in UNG's Department of Public Safety
"Also, custodial staff are consciously cleaning door knobs and other high-traffic areas," Strzemienski said. "I've briefed resident assistants on the Dahlonega Campus regarding influenza and provided tips for preventing its spread."
To prevent the flu, the CDC recommends getting a flu vaccination, avoiding close contact, and practicing cough and sneeze etiquette. UNG's Student Health Services offered flu shots to students, faculty and staff in October.
The flu can be contagious before symptoms are present and during sickness, according to the CDC. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others before symptoms develop and up to one week after becoming sick. The CDC recommends that those who have the flu avoid contact with others until being fever-free for at least 24 hours.
Students who suspect they have the flu can contact student health services at 706-864-1948 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. All students must pay the Student Health Fee to take advantage of the services offered by Student Health Services; the health fee is optional on the Gainesville, Cumming, and Oconee campuses.
To view facts about influenza and access other resources, visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/keyfacts.htm.