SIUC, UIUC warn of H1N1

August 15, 2009 8:23:22 AM PDT
Two Illinois universities are taking new precautions against the H1N1 flu before the start of fall classes. The University of Illinois' Urbana-Champaign campus sent letters to about 60,000 students and faculty. School officials are urging people who are sick with the flu to either head home for a week or isolate themselves.

Southern Illinois University-Carbondale has also refined its plans. SIUC officials were putting up leaflets in dorms and dining halls. Residential advisers have also been given extra training.

Meanwhile, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported just five new swine flu-related hospitalizations in the last week, down from 18 new cases the week before. There were no new deaths reported either week.

The U of I letter from Dr. Robert Palinkas, director of McKinley Health Center, said most people with swine flu do well after a week at home.

"For this reason, ill students should plan to either go home to their family for about a week or spend a week in relative isolation in a room to avoid infecting others," Palinkas said.

Palinkas said he expects some students will have been infected at summer programs and camps. Students who have been in the Southern Hemisphere are at particular risk because the virus has spread rapidly there over the past few months, Palinkas said.

Faculty and staff are also being encouraged to stay home when they're sick.

Palinkas is expecting H1N1 to manifest in the fall, while seasonal flu peaks in February.

"We're trying to educate people there are two influenzas to think about," he said.

McKinley Health Center is also planning to screen students as they arrive at the building and isolate people with flu-like symptoms to keep the virus from spreading, Palinkas said.

Other state schools are also refining their swine flu plans.

Southern Illinois University in Carbondale will continue an education campaign that started in the spring. At the school's commencement, officials put out hand sanitizer and distributed leaflets with details on precautions to take, said spokesman Rod Sievers.

More leaflets will be put up in dorms and dining halls, and residential advisers have been given extra training about swine flu, he said.

"When you have a lot of students living in tight quarters, you really have to be on the lookout," Sievers said.

There have been more than 3,440 confirmed and probable cases of swine flu in more than 40 Illinois counties. A total of 17 people have died from the virus in the state.

The state health department announced Friday that it's no longer reporting confirmed and probable cases of H1N1 flu in Illinois on its Web site. Instead, the agency's Web site will report the number of confirmed hospitalizations and deaths related to H1N1 flu.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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