September 16, 2009
In a few weeks, you will be embarking on the next phase of your formal education at the University of Washington Bothell. I hope you are as enthusiastic and excited about this, as we are to have you coming here. By now, I trust, you are registered for classes, and you are making final preparations for fall quarter 2009 at UW Bothell.
There is one circumstance that makes this fall a little different from most others, and that is the presence of the novel H1N1 influenza virus. As has been reported in the news, colleges and universities across the country have experienced outbreaks of the virus as the new academic year has commenced. Most recent has been the experience at Washington State University, where the virus has been spreading among ten to fifteen percent of the student population. While the virus appears to be easily transmitted from person to person, the good news is that it also seems to be relatively mild as an influenza illness and most people not in high-risk populations recover fully within a week.
The University of Washington has a broad-based committee, The Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases (ACCD) that has been monitoring information related to the H1N1 flu since last spring and preparing for its arrival at the University this fall. I want to tell you some of the things you can do before the start of classes and what to anticipate when the flu begins to spread among our University population.
First, the vaccine for novel H1N1 influenza is being tested now and will not be available until mid-October. It is not clear yet whether inoculation will require one or two doses, so it is likely that we will go through a good part of fall quarter without vaccination protection for the H1N1 virus. In the meantime, it is recommended that before the quarter begins, students get the regular seasonal influenza vaccine to protect against seasonal flu. It would also be wise to prepare a self-treatment kit for the flu that includes a thermometer, anti-fever medication (such as Tylenol or acetaminophen), hand sanitizer, surface disinfectant wipes, tissues, electrolyte packs to mix with water, and throat lozenges. Being prepared with these few items will make treating an illness much easier should you be stricken.
There are also a number of things you can do to enhance the chances that you will not become ill. Frequent hand washing with soap and water is crucial. The virus can live on surfaces for up to eight hours, and frequent hand washing is a very good protective step. If you do become ill with flu-like symptoms, a high fever and cough or sore throat, please stay at home or in your room. It is all right to miss class if you become ill. We would prefer that you isolate yourself rather than risk infecting others. You may return to classes when you have not had a fever for 24 hours without taking fever-lowering medication. You can contact your instructor or professor via e-mail to determine how you can make up missed work. We are asking faculty to be flexible and accommodating in dealing with students who become ill with the flu. Faculty themselves, of course, may become ill and have to miss class. All of us are vulnerable to the flu and we will all have to work through this together.
Our website offers a number of resources for information and guidance about the flu. We encourage you to visit this site to familiarize yourself with available resources and recommended practices. We also invite you to consider enrolling in the 2009-10 Student Injury and Sickness Insurance Plan. All formally admitted matriculated UW Bothell students are eligible to enroll in this plan. Premium payments must be received by the insurance company within seven days of the beginning of the quarter. Coverage becomes effective on the first day of the quarter for which the premium has been paid. Please contact United Healthcare at 800.973.4698 if you have any questions about the plan.
There is no way of knowing how widely the novel H1N1 influenza virus will spread or when, but I think it is fair to assume that a substantial number of us will catch the flu this fall and will miss some days of school or work. We will keep the campus informed as information becomes available to us during the quarter, both in terms of the incidence of the disease in our community as well as when a vaccine becomes available and how it will be administered.
In the meantime, I hope you come to campus healthy, stay healthy, and enjoy the next phase of your college experience.
Assistant Vice Chancellor, Division of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs