Student influenza cases appear at UW-Madison

Sept. 3, 2009

by John Lucas

As has been widely expected, UW-Madison officials have received reports this week that some students have come down with symptoms characteristic of influenza.

University Health Services (UHS) has also begun seeing more patients than usual for this time of year with flu-like symptoms (including fever and cough or sore throat).

"This is what we've prepared for," says Sarah Van Orman, MD, executive director of UHS. "This is also what many other schools around the country are experiencing, and this is why every member of the campus has received at least one message about influenza precautions and preparedness in the past week.

"We want students to know that with influenza in our community, flu season starts now, not a few months from now," she adds.

All students have received information about flu symptoms and steps to take if they become ill. Students who wish to contact UHS about medical advice or treatment can call 608-265-5600.

When UHS receives information about student illness from campus partners, it attempts to work with affected segments of its population to ensure that self-isolation and cleaning guidelines are being followed and that those in affected areas are receiving information from the university.

Campus operational units have all received guidance on cleaning recommendations during an outbreak and self-isolation instructions for employees. If student illness is reported in a particular unit, UHS is available to provide any additional guidance that may be requested.

The campus expects that there will be more cases over the next few weeks, but UHS and UW-Madison are not planning to report a daily tally of flu cases on campus throughout the semester.

"In the majority of cases, students will get sick and recover, and we may never hear about it," Van Orman says. "I believe that our messages are getting out, and students are doing a good job of taking prompt self-isolation and cleaning precautions when they get sick to help limit the spread to others.

"We will keep the community updated about the situation on campus and continue giving them information and tools to help deal with this unusual semester," Van Orman adds.

In general, UW-Madison is giving this basic advice:

  • Use health measures such as washing your hands and covering your cough.
  • Don't go to work or class if you're ill with a fever of 100 degrees F/37.8 degrees C or higher with cough or sore throat until at least 24 hours after you have been completely fever-free (without fever-reducing medication). For most people, this takes three to five days (health care workers must stay out for a minimum of seven days from symptom onset).
  • If you're a student, ask your parents to pick you up so that you might recover at home, if possible. You should not travel using public transportation. Contact your professors so that you might receive notes and other class materials and reschedule assignments. Contact your residence hall staff if you're in University Housing.
  • If you're an employee, don't come to work, or go home if you feel flu-like symptoms. Contact your supervisor.
  • Download UHS guidelines on "What You Can Do About the Flu." 

Visit this site for additional information. If the information you're seeking isn't there, e-mail pandemicinfo@uwpd.wisc.edu.