An influenza primer for employees

The dry, rough skin on your hands may be a testament to your hand-washing diligence this winter. And perhaps you're dining on chicken soup four times a week to keep your immune system Teflon-coated. But, let's face it, we're a campus community of 40,000-plus and not everyone has your stamina. So, as we wade into the heart of the 2015 flu season, Inside gathered the following information to guide your flu-battling efforts.

If you missed the employee flu vaccine clinic in October, you're out of luck on this free option. Occupational Medicine has no more vaccine to distribute, but local pharmacies still are offering flu shots. This year's vaccine was produced prior to the arrival of a viral strain affecting people this season (an H3N2 mutant). However, state health officials still encourage people to be vaccinated.

To protect yourself and others from the flu every day:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Take care of yourself. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage stress, eat nutritious foods and stay hydrated
  • Routinely disinfect surfaces that many people touch (doorknobs, keyboards, light switches, candy jars, stair handrails)
  • Cover your cough or sneeze, preferably with an elbow
  • If you're ill, stay home, preferably until 24 hours after you are symptom-free

Regarding that last point, University Human Resources this week updated and posted an Influenza FAQ for university employees that addresses all kinds of questions – about staying home, working from home, returning to work, for example -- for employees and supervisors.

Additionally, a provost's office memo reminded department chairs of Iowa State's class attendance policy (PDF) for students dealing with viral illnesses. Recognizing that students with flu symptoms who avoid class and work environments is for the public good, faculty should not ask students to get a class excuse note from the Thielen Student Health Center for classes missed due to the flu.

The staff of the student health center is coordinating an influenza education campaign among students that includes emails, social media posts, ads in the ISU Daily, a Cy-inspired poster (PDF) in the residence halls, and a 99-second video produced with ISU News Service.

ISU environmental health and safety developed a hand-washing poster (PDF) that should be showing up in restrooms around campus as building services staff receive and post copies.