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GNTC Taking Proactive Steps for Flu Prevention
Contact: Amber Jordan
Date: August 28, 2009
With public health officials anticipating a resurgence of the flu this fall, Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) is taking proactive steps to prepare by developing prevention strategies; educating our students, faculty, and staff; and reviewing our current pandemic flu plan.
GNTC, following guidelines published by the Centers for Disease Control, is deploying a combination of targeted, layered strategies to limit the spread of influenza on our campuses. Planned in collaboration with local, regional, and state public health agencies, the strategies include high communication to faculty, staff, and students on prevention/limitation techniques, widespread availability of hand and surface sanitizing materials, increased surface disinfection practices, and a plan for escalated management procedures (such as campus closings) should that become necessary.
We are collaborating with local health departments in each of our counties to arrange for faculty and staff vaccinations once the vaccines become available, and we are monitoring regional, state, and national statistics on influenza cases.
Because one of the CDC’s prevention recommendations is “social distancing”, many GNTC students will benefit from taking some of the 161 courses being offered online for fall quarter.
“Our plan will be to gather information on a continued basis and adjust the operations of the four campuses accordingly,” said GNTC President Craig McDaniel.
For now, we are doing everything we can to keep our college operating as usual. College officials are communicating with students about flu prevention through email, web postings, phone calls, and various educational materials posted around GNTC’s campuses. Prevention strategies being communicated to students, faculty, and staff include:
- Practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand cleaners also are effective.
- Practice respiratory etiquette by covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow or shoulder, not into your hands. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth; germs are spread this way.
- Know the signs and symptoms of the flu. A fever is a temperature taken with a thermometer that is equal to or greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius. Look for possible signs of fever: if the person feels very warm, has a flushed appearance, or is sweating or shivering.
- Actively informing faculty, staff, and students about pandemic flu symptoms and prevention measures via email, posters, phone calls, and web postings.
- Increasing the frequency of which our housekeeping staff wipes down high contact areas each day. GNTC uses a hospital-grade germicide that kills the full spectrum of germs, and housekeepers always wear gloves to prevent cross-contamination.
- Distributing boxes of tissue, hand sanitizer dispensers, and surface disinfectant supplies throughout all campuses to limit the spread of germs.
- Instructing faculty to exercise reasonable leniency in attendance policies. Any student with flu-like symptoms should stay at home and call or email his/her instructor(s) to let them know the flu may be involved.
- Requesting that sick students and staff members remain at home at least 24 hours after symptoms have gone away. Specifically, this means the student or staff member should have had no fever for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication before he or she returns to school.
- Talk with your health care providers about whether you should be vaccinated for seasonal flu. Also if you are at higher risk for flu complications from 2009 H1N1 flu, you should consider getting the H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available. People at higher risk for 2009 H1N1 flu complications include pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, heart disease, or diabetes). For more information about priority groups for vaccination, visit www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/acip.htm.
If this year’s flu season becomes more severe, we may take the following additional steps to prevent the spread of the virus:
- Find ways to increase social distances (the space between people) in classrooms such as moving desks farther apart, leaving empty seats between students, holding outdoor classes, and using distance learning methods.
- Suspend classes - This decision will be made together with local and state public health officials. The length of time classes should be suspended will depend on the goal of suspending classes as well as the severity and extent of illness.