Dear Parents and Families,
Flu and other virus season is upon us again and I’m writing with some things to consider. We are seeing many ill students (as is typical in the fall) with fevers and sick symptoms for a variety of reasons. In particular, we’re seeing students with non-specific fever and gastrointestinal symptoms (diarrhea and vomiting), influenza-like illness and some scattered cases of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD). The Health Center, Residential Facilities, Facilities Management, and RecWell are working together to increase cleaning of high touch surfaces and restrooms around campus.
This news is no cause for alarm but it does give us the opportunity to practice effective prevention techniques for this type of illness. Your student should do the following…
- Get a flu shot -- it is not too late. The UHC has plenty of flu vaccine. Schedule an appointment for a flu shot at myuhc.umd.edu.
- Wash their hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid those who are ill, if possible.
- Clean high touch surfaces around the residence hall room, apartment, or other living spaces with anti-bacterial cleaner (bleach wipes are very effective - follow the instructions on the packaging).
- Cough into a sleeve or a tissue, not directly into the hands, and wash hands immediately.
- Avoid touching your face when you are ill and when healthy; this spreads germs!
- Avoid sharing food, utensils, cups, and water bottles.
The treatment for influenza and many other viral illnesses, for otherwise healthy people, is “supportive”-- meaning that our recommendations will often be that your student rest, drink plenty of fluids and take fever reducing medicine if they are diagnosed with the flu. Anti-viral medications (Tamiflu® and Relenza®) are generally not recommended for healthy people with the flu. Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for HFMD. Most people who are infected with these illnesses will not require medical care. This means:
- If your student gets sick with a fever, they should avoid crowded places like dining halls, classrooms, restaurants, and the Recreation Center to prevent spreading the illness to others. They should continue to do this until they have not had a fever for 24 hours. If home is within reasonable driving distance, we recommend that students head home to recover.
- If your student remains on campus when they are sick, they should recruit a friend (a “Flu Buddy”) to help care for them and bring them food while they recover. (http://dining.umd.edu/contact/sick-meals/)
- Take fever reducers like acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) for fever. If a fever persists for more than 3 days in spite of fever reducers, please seek care.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Avoid Emergency Rooms and Urgent Care Centers unless truly sick as these locations will be crowded with many sick people with influenza. This may put your student at risk of getting the flu.
For students, faculty and staff who have chronic medical problems (ex. asthma, diabetes, obesity), it is important to visit the UHC or your personal physician within 48 hours of developing flu symptoms.
For more information on the flu, visit this site.
For more information on Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease, visit this site.
We hope that your student stays well! The University Health Center is here to answer any questions you may have.
David McBride, MD
Director, University Health Center