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Information for Parents

As Washington and Lee prepares for potential impact of the H1N1 influenza, commonly known as swine flu, parents of students can provide valuable assistance through communication with your sons or daughters.

Here are some key facts about H1N1:

  • The virus, which was confirmed in more than a dozen cases on the Washington and Lee campus last spring, has continued to cause illness, hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S. during the normally flu-free summer months.
  • This virus could move swiftly from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere in the coming weeks. Epidemiologists are concerned that as the H1N1 virus moves, it could mutate into a more dangerous strain than the strain that appeared this spring.
  • The virus has demonstrated a capacity to infect college-age students. The seasonal flu and the swine flu are different viruses, so it is possible to contract both types of flu. The CDC recommends vaccination against the seasonal flu, but also states, "The seasonal flu vaccine is unlikely to provide protection against novel H1N1 influenza." We expect the seasonal flu vaccine to be available later this fall, in time for the beginning of the seasonal flu season. The CDC recommends students get the swine flu vaccine when it becomes available. Specifically, the CDC states, "The groups recommended to receive the novel H1N1 influenza vaccine include . . . [y]oung adults 19 through 24 years of age because we have seen many cases of novel H1N1 influenza in these healthy young adults and they often live, work, and study in close proximity, and they are a frequently mobile population."

Parents should encourage students to observe the Action Steps to Avoid the Flu. These include the following preventative steps:

  • Everyone should wash their hands thoroughly and often with soap and water. In the absence of soap and water, use alcohol-based sanitizers. In addition to its usual practice of providing antibacterial soap in all campus restrooms, the University is placing numerous alcohol-based sanitizers at sites throughout campus given the public health concern about novel H1N1.
  • Everyone should cover his or her mouth and nose with their upper sleeve when they cough or sneeze.
  • Everyone should avoid sharing utensils, cups, drinks or personal-care items, and should avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth.

The symptoms of swine flu are similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal influenza and include fever (above 100 degrees), body aches, lethargy, lack of appetite, and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. We recommend that students bring or get a thermometer so that, if necessary, they can check their own temperature. If a student's temperature rises to 100 degrees or above and he or she has the aforementioned symptoms, there is a good chance the student may have this form of flu.

If you student does contract the H1N1 virus, encourage him or her to stay in isolation until 24 hours after the fever resolves (goes below 99.9F) without the use of fever-suppressing medications. The Office of Student Affairs is asking students to identify a "flu buddy" - a friend who will assist the infected student by getting food and academic assignments. Students who are ill should not go to class but should inform their professors of their illness by email or telephone.

Students who are concerned that they have the H1N1 may call the student Health Center at (540) 458-8401 (Extension 8401 on campus). If the student is complaining of one of the following, have him/her immediately contact the Student Health Center:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Symptoms more severe than expected (severe headache, high fever, severe sore throat, rash)

Additional communications on this subject will be made, as warranted, though email or on this Website.