Basic Facts on H1N1

H1N1 flu is a respiratory disease caused by the type A influenza virus. It is a new influenza virus causing illness in people worldwide, and it was first detected in people in the United States in April 2009. This virus is spreading from person-to-person, probably in much the same way that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread. Like seasonal flu, H1N1 flu in humans can vary in severity from mild to severe.

The current strain is a new variation of H1N1 virus, which is a mix of human and animal versions of H1N1 virus. The new H1N1 flu viruses are different genetically from the human H1N1 viruses, and therefore humans lack immunity to protect against the new H1N1 flu viruses. While most people who have so far been sick with H1N1 flu have recovered without needing medical treatment, hospitalizations and deaths from infection with this virus have occurred. The World Health Organization has urged governments to take precautions to prevent the spread of this strain of H1N1 flu virus.

The symptoms of H1N1 flu are similar to seasonal influenza and include fever with cough and/or sore throat. Some people with flu have also reported body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, diarrhea, and vomiting.

The current strain of H1N1 influenza circulating around the world is contagious and is believed to be spreading among humans in the same way that the seasonal flu spreads. Influenza is thought to spread primarily person-to-person through coughing or sneezing by infected people, or when someone touches something with flu viruses on it and then touches their mouth or nose. Infected people may be able to spread the virus to others beginning one day (24 hours) before symptoms develop, and up to seven or more days after becoming sick. This means it is important to practice good hygiene at all times, even if you have not developed symptoms, in order to reduce the risk of spreading sickness.

It will be difficult to determine if someone who is sick has the new H1N1 flu virus or seasonal flu because the symptoms are very similar. Given the worldwide presence of H1N1 flu, federal and state health officials are not recommending laboratory tests to determine in all cases whether an ill person has H1N1 flu. Because it will be difficult to determine if someone has H1N1 flu or seasonal flu, anyone who has flu-like symptoms should stay away from others and should follow self-isolation instructions until they have been without a fever for 24 hours in order to prevent the spread of illness.

Flu symptoms usually develop within three to four days of contact with an infected person, though it may take up to seven days.

It is important to practice good hygiene at all times, and there are everyday actions people can take to stay healthy:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and properly dispose of the tissue. If you do not have a tissue, sneeze or cough into the bend of your arm rather than into your hands to reduce the spread of germs.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

Students:
Students experiencing flu-like symptoms (i.e. fever with cough and/or sore throat)are advised to follow home isolation instructions (self-isolation instructions) and should not attend work or school until they have been without a fever for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medication. Sick students should maintain their distance from others (six feet is recommended).

Students missing classes due to flu-like symptoms must contact their student advising office and instructors using their New School email address to discuss anticipated absence from class and ways to make up missed assignments.

Residence Hall Students:
Students who reside in residence halls should inform their RAs that they have flu-like symptoms.

Residence Hall students who live within driving distance of The New School will be asked to recover at home if they can be picked up by car.

For students recovering in their dorm rooms, RAs will help coordinate meal and medication delivery.

Students with medical questions regarding their illness should call Student Health Services at 212. 229.1671 option 2.

Students who must leave their residences or homes for medical care are advised to wear a mask.

Faculty and Staff:
Faculty and staff experiencing flu-like symptoms (i.e. fever with cough and/or sore throat) should not come to work and should follow home isolation instructions. The guideline is to remain isolated during illness and for at least 24 hours after the ill person's fever is gone, except to get medical care (fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine). Employees feeling sick should notify their supervisor of their absence from work and contact their personal physicians.

Faculty, staff, and students diagnosed with flu or flu-like illness should follow home isolation instructions until 24 hours after the ill person's fever is gone, except to get medical care (fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine).

Students who live within driving distance of the university are advised to return to their homes for the duration of their illness. Students who remain on campus should stay away from others (six feet) and eat meals in their dorm room (students should make arrangements for friends to deliver meals to their room because students with flu will not be permitted in the dining halls, and will be discouraged from eating at off-campus clubs and other communal dining settings). Students who require assistance with meal and medication delivery should speak with their RAs.

To reduce the spread of illness, sick individuals should cover their mouths and noses with a tissue or the bend of their elbows when coughing and sneezing and frequently wash hands or use hand sanitizer

The flu shot given during the fall 2009 flu season will not provide protection against the H1N1 influenza virus. The New School will provide seasonal flu vaccinations. For students the flu shot will be available this fall.

For faculty and staff the flu shot will be available on October 20 for $10.00, a reservation notice will be sent out two weeks prior to this date). Students, faculty, and staff are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated for seasonal flu.

An H1N1 vaccine has been developed. H1N1 Flu Vaccines have started to arrive at Student Health Services in small quantities for students. The currently available vaccine is the intra-nasal version, which is not recommended for individuals with allergies to eggs or pre-existing medical conditions (i.e. pregnant women, adults with chronic medical conditions such as asthma or diabetes, or individuals with immunosuppression). At this time Student Health Services is offering free H1N1 vaccine for students without pre-existing medical conditions as described above, and are 24 years of age or younger. For more information please contact them 212.229.1671 option 2.

Faculty and staff should contact there primary care provider to discuss whether they should recieve the H1N1 vaccination.

Antiviral drugs can sometimes be used to treat H1N1 flu or to prevent infection with H1N1 flu viruses, They must be prescribed by a health care professional and their use is appropriate in very limited circumstances. Because most people with influenza like illness will recover without complications, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is currently not recommending treatment with antiviral drugs for people who are not at higher risk for flu complications or do not have severe influenza.

Federal and state health authorities currently recommend antiviral treatment for certain groups: hospitalized individuals; individuals with flu-like illness who have pre-existing medical conditions that cause them to be at higher risk for flu complications (e.g., pregnant women, individuals with chronic illnesses such as asthma and diabetes, individuals with compromised immune systems); and individuals with influenza whose medical condition appears to be significantly worsening.

Health authorities also note that individuals with pre-existing medical conditions who have had close contact with someone with flu may be prescribed an antiviral medication to decrease the likelihood of developing a serious case of influenza.

Students with pre-existing conditions who develop flu-like symptoms or have been exposed to someone with flu should call Student Health Services at 212.229.1671 option 2 to discuss whether it would be appropriate to start antiviral treatment. SHS also will review the need for a prescription for antiviral medication for high-risk individuals who will be traveling to locations where antiviral medications may not be readily available.

Employees who have questions about whether it would be appropriate to start antiviral treatment should contact their personal physician.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently not recommending the use of facemasks for healthy individuals who are not in a high-risk category. All individuals are encouraged to continue practicing good hygiene and take the normal precautions to protect themselves as they would from regular seasonal flu.

The use of a face mask by an individual with flu is thought to decrease the transmission of the flu virus to others. Therefore, individuals with flu who are in self-isolation in their dorm rooms or homes are strongly encouraged to wear a face mask when others are present or if they must leave their room (i.e. to use a communal bathroom or to seek medical assistance).

After being evaluated by Student Health Services, ill students in self-isolation may be provided a mask to prevent the spread of illness to healthy roommates or if others need to be present in their room. Masks also may be requested by well students who are at higher risk for complications from the flu (e.g., pregnant women, individuals with chronic illnesses such as asthma and diabetes, and individuals with compromised immune systems).

Should you choose to purchase a facemask, masks cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as medical devices have been determined to help protect penetration of blood and body fluids. This includes facemasks labeled as surgical, dental, medical procedure, isolation or laser masks, and these typically are available for purchase at local pharmacies, supermarkets, or hardware stores.