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September 15, 2009

 

College says it’s prepared for swine flu

SUNY Cortland health center has had few cases of flu-like symptoms in recent weeks

Swine FluBob Ellis/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland physician Dr. Devin Coppola looks over a chart Sept. 4 in the college’s health center in Van Hoesen Hall. As it prepares for any potential H1N1 outbreak, the college is building on preparations made several years ago as it faced potential problems from avian flu and SARS.

By SCOTT CONROE
Staff Reporter
sconroe@cortlandstandard.net

The SUNY Cortland campus is ready for complications caused to its operations by H1N1 flu, the College Council heard Monday.
Gregory Sharer, the college’s vice president for student affairs, said his staff is building on preparations made several years ago as the college faced potential problems from avian flu and SARS.
The college’s health center had only two cases last week of flu-like symptoms and none this week, said SUNY Cortland spokesman Pete Koryzno.
Sharer said the campus is aware that a Cornell University student died from the H1N1 flu on Friday. Warren Schor, 20, a Cornell junior, died at Cayuga Medical Center.
Students must be aware of flu symptoms and be ready to isolate themselves by staying home from class or activities when they have a high fever, Sharer said. The college is communicating all it can, using guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he added.
Sharer and college President Erik Bitterbaum said faculty have agreed to work with students when they miss class due to illness.
“We won’t shut down the campus unless the CDC or a state agency says we have to,” Sharer said, adding that most colleges are not thinking about large-scale interruptions in instruction.
Bitterbaum said that with the avian flu situation, faculty wanted proof from campus health services that students had serious illness, but that overwhelmed the health center’s staff.
“This time, we will use a trust system,” Bitterbaum said. “It could be abused, of course, but that system is the way we’re going.”
Colleges and schools have been preparing for the H1N1 flu, after last spring’s swine flu pandemic. Administrators have tried to avoid panic while making students and staff aware that H1N1 flu is highly contagious and dangerous — especially to people under 24 and people with certain medical conditions.
Sharer said the seasonal flu vaccine will be available to students later this week, and faculty and staff after that. It will cost $10 for students and $25 for faculty and staff.
The H1N1 flu vaccine will be available in October. Sharer said SUNY Cortland will decide how many vaccines to order, based on a survey of students.
The H1N1 vaccine will be free.
“We don’t want to spend money unnecessarily on vaccine, but we also don’t want to take more of it than we need, because we would deprive someone else,” Sharer said after the meeting.
He said his staff is concerned not just about students who live on-campus but those who live off-campus.
“Students in apartments and houses don’t have the infrastructure in place, the way a residence hall does,” he said, adding that students must look after each other. These students should visit the campus health services if they become ill.
Sharer noted that Cornell’s Gannett Health Center has been swamped with students reporting flu-like symptoms.
The health center’s Web site said over the weekend that its staff was dealing with so many cases that all other, more routine services had been suspended.
Fraternity social events were suspended for this week. Fraternity and sorority members have been cautioned to take measures against spreading illness, in their kitchens and bathrooms.
There has been little noticeable reaction among SUNY Cortland students to Schor’s death, campus officials said.
Tompkins Cortland Community College has reported an increase in cases where students reported flu-like symptoms. Seasonal flu shots are free for TC3 students and staff.
Also at Monday’s meeting, the council reelected Walter Farnholtz as vice chair and Marie Rumsey as secretary.
Chair Dorothea Fowler’s term ended in June but Gov. David Paterson has not announced who will be chair this year.

 

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