H1N1 Flu Preparedness for Faculty The College of St. Scholastica, Fall 2009

As you know, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and other global health organizations are expecting widespread illness resulting from the spread of the H1N1 virus during the coming flu season. Current thinking suggests that school closures will not be required, but that institutions need to plan for higher than usual rates of staff and student absenteeism. It is important that we do everything we can to limit the impact of the flu on the health and well-being of our community. We encourage you to consider the following issues:

H1N1 and the Classroom
Students who have the flu should not come to class. If a student informs you that he or she has the flu, please send the student home. If a student is displaying flu-like symptoms, it is appropriate to ask the student about these observable symptoms and possibly ask the student to return home. The primary symptoms are fever plus cough and sore throat.

Your Students' Attendance and H1N1
It is important to recognize and mitigate ways that class attendance policies might encourage students who are ill to come to class. Students who have contracted the flu should not return to class until 24 hours after the fever lifts (without the use of fever reducing medications). As such, we recommend that you observe the following protocol.

  • First, we recommend that you discuss your attendance policy in detail with your students so that they understand the importance of "saving" absences for possible illnesses.
  • Secondly, we recommend that you review your attendance policies or practices to ensure that they do not encourage sick students to come to class.

One way to approach this is to allow sick students to take additional absences with assigned make-up work. Have make-up assignments ready that you can give to students to make up for missed class sessions. Such assignments should allow a student to have a roughly equivalent learning experience, and should not be punitive or excessive in nature.

Do not require a health practitioner's note for students who report flu-like symptoms. The H1N1 flu has to this point been relatively mild and does not typically require evaluation or treatment by a health care practitioner for those who are otherwise healthy. Requiring health practitioner documentation to justify absences may overburden a health care system that should be using resources to treat high-risk cases. Student reports of "flu-like symptoms" should be sufficient to allow additional absences or whatever other accommodation you determine appropriate.

Faculty Illness Absenteeism
If you, as a faculty member, become ill with the flu, you should not come to class until 24 hours after your fever lifts. Please take note of the fact that, if you become ill with the H1N1 flu, it is possible that you will miss more than 1 week of class.

  • Identify alternative activities or guest lecturers whom you might invite in case you come down with the flu.
  • Organize your course materials so that a colleague could step in at short notice. Departmental colleagues who are well should be prepared to pinch hit for those who are ill.
  • Take advantage of distance learning resources-ranging from group e-mail communication to use of Blackboard/WebCT activities.

If you do contract the flu, please notify appropriate administrators, colleagues, and administrative assistants to engage their help around cancelling classes, notifying students, engaging substitutes, etc. Administrators should notify Academic Affairs of extended faculty absences.

This material adapted from information shared by Naropa University, Boulder, CO