Tips for faculty on H1N1: Medical excuses

1:17 p.m., Sept. 4, 2009----A potential outbreak of H1N1 influenza on the campus could have serious impacts in the classroom.

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Deputy Provost Havidán Rodríguez is leading discussions on the topic this fall at the Chairs' and Program Directors' workshop and during the Associate/Assistant Deans' Council meeting.

For example, during the outbreak last spring of H1N1, UD - along with many other universities across the country - did not issue medical excuses, as there were just too many students going through Student Health Service.

CDC's most recent guidelines for institutions of higher education indicate that ill students should isolate themselves for about 24 hours after their fevers subside. The guidelines also indicate that colleges should make it "easy for students, and faculty and staff members with flu symptoms to miss class or work."

"Requiring medical excuses does not facilitate this process, quite the contrary" Rodríguez said, "especially when potentially hundreds of students can become infected. More than likely, this is the process that we will be following this year as well, depending on the severity of the outbreak."

UD guidelines indicate that for "relatively minor, short-term illnesses of students (e.g., colds and flu, where attendance in class is undesirable), or their immediate family, the University system depends upon reasonable communication between students and faculty. If possible, students should report such illnesses before the affected class, following the directions of the instructor as provided at the beginning of the semester."

While the possibility of abuse always exists, previous crisis situations show that this is the exception rather than the rule.

"We will continue to monitor this situation closely," Rodríguez says, "and we are evaluating alternative methods we might be able to employ if classes are disrupted for an extended period of time. Any new information will be shared on the University's H1N1 411 Web site."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to advise everyone to practice good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette and self-isolation for person with flu-like illness.