Yale Responds to Swine Flu

Linda Koch Lorimer, the secretary of the university, sent out the following message to the Yale community today about swine flu. I thought it did a good job providing a balanced perspective about the risks. What do you think? Are we overreacting to swine flu or are we not doing enough about it?

A Message to the Yale Community

I am sure you have been following reports of swine flu in Mexico and, over the weekend, in New York. Forty confirmed cases have occurred in the United States (in Texas, California, Ohio, New York and Kansas). All the cases in the United States have been relatively mild, and this strain appears to respond to treatments commonly available at Yale University Health Services (YUHS) and other medical facilities.

At this point, the most important thing for you to remember is to seek appropriate medical care if you have flu-like symptoms (see below). Additionally, if you are ill with fever and respiratory symptoms, you should refrain from going to work or to classes before speaking with a health care professional.

What to do if you think you have the flu
The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of the more common seasonal human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu.

If you think you have the flu, call YUHS right away at 432-0123—whether or not you are a member of the Yale Health Plan. If you are a member, you will be guided to next steps for seeking medical care. Please do not just “drop in” to Urgent Visit without calling first for instructions. Extra staff are available to respond to calls and set up appointments as needed. Remember that if you are a student who has waived YUHS coverage, basic services (which include treatment for the flu) are provided for free.

If you are not a member of the Yale Health Plan, I would appreciate your calling YUHS, in addition to your own doctor, if you have flu symptoms. YUHS staff will be able to offer basic guidance regarding your own care, and it is very important that we keep apprised of cases that are developing so we can respond appropriately for the welfare of the entire community.

Often devoted staff and faculty persevere and come to work when they are ill. This is NOT the time to do this. Use your sick time! Obviously this is a very busy time of the year, but we need to consider the health of others at this time.

What is Yale doing?
The University has an Emergency Response Team that has worked for several years following SARS to develop plans to respond to various medical emergencies. That group, which I chair, has already met, and we are monitoring developments very closely. Meetings with the Deans and Directors as well as the Masters and Residential College Deans will occur this week.

We plan on posting regular updates on the University’s Emergency Preparation website at www.yale.edu/secretary/emergency/ and the website of University Health Services www.yale.edu/uhs. We will be providing updates and further information, especially about any changes for summer programs. If you have particular questions, please do not hesitate to contact the University’s Director of Emergency Management Maria Bouffard at maria.bouffard@yale.edu or 436-8597.

Also if you are interested in additional information, you may wish to consult the World Health Organization website as well as the Centers for Disease Control, which has a special swine flu website with daily updates; the addresses for those sites are: Centers for Disease Control www.cdc.gov/swineflu/investigation.htm and the World Health Organization www.who.int/csr/disease/swineflu/en/index.html.

Frequently Asked Questions
I am grateful to Dr. Michael Rigsby, Medical Director of YUHS and a specialist in infectious disease, for preparing the following “Frequently Asked Questions.” We will update this information on the website www.yale.edu/secretary/emergency/.

Swine Flu: Frequently Asked Questions
April 27, 2009

What are the signs and symptoms of swine flu in people?
The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu.

How serious is swine flu infection?
Like seasonal flu, swine flu in humans can vary in severity from mild to severe. The current reported cases in the U.S. have been relatively mild.

How do you catch swine flu?
Spread of swine flu can occur in two ways:
Through contact with infected pigs or environments contaminated with swine flu viruses.
Through contact with a person with swine flu. Human-to-human spread of swine flu has been documented also and is thought to occur in the same way as seasonal flu. Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.

How long can an infected person spread swine flu to others?
Infected people may be able to infect others before they even know they are sick. The virus can be spread a day before any symptoms develop and up to 7 or more days after becoming sick. Children, especially younger children, and individuals who are severely ill or have persistent symptoms might be contagious for longer periods.

What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?
There is no vaccine available right now to protect against swine flu. There are everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza. Take these everyday steps to protect your health:

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

Should I be wearing a face mask to keep from getting sick?
It is not necessary for the general public to use face masks. If you have flu symptoms, however, and go in to see a doctor, you may be asked to wear a mask to keep you from spreading any virus when you cough or sneeze.

I had a flu shot this year. Can I still get swine flu?
The vaccine available this year likely will not protect against the swine flu since it is a new form of the virus that was not available when the current vaccines were produced.

What should I do if I get sick?
If you have symptoms of the flu (fever, cough, muscle aches) you should call University Health Services (432-0123). The staff will determine whether influenza testing or treatment is needed.

I waived coverage in the University Health Plan? Can I still get treatment there?
Yes, students can receive treatment regardless of their hospitalization insurance. We ask any member of the community who does not have coverage at the Yale Health Plan to call if they develop symptoms.

What should I do if I am in another country and feel sick with the flu?
YUHS has a toll free number that can be used when calling from many countries: 877-YHP-CARE (877-947-2273). You should also carry your MEDEX when you are travelling internationally www.yale.edu/finance/controller/riskman/programs/medex.html.

Yale University Official Message

NOTE: This official Yale University message can also be viewed at: https://light.its.yale.edu/messages/univmsgs/detail.asp?Msg=42655


One Response

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