On Wednesday, Sept. 16, the University of Western Ontario’s Student Health Services confirmed four mild cases of H1N1 on campus. Oh woe, doom is near!
Surprisingly, there has been very little H1N1-generated tension on the St. George campus — at least from what I could gather via my fatigue-stricken observatory skills (it’s almost midterm season: ’nuff said). It seems that the omnipresence of hand-sanitizer stations has desensitized a whole lot of us to the fear and paranoia of swine flu that is so excellently depicted in this video.
All of U of T’s precautionary efforts raise the question: are they actually effective? While I don’t mean to question the school’s dedication in preparing for the possibility of an H1N1 outbreak, I do wonder if all these efforts are actually raising the appropriate level of awareness amongst students, faculty and staff. Don’t know what I mean? Just take a look yourself:
- U of T Pandemic Preparedness says: “If you are ill, do not go to class or to work.”
I observe: People come up to me in libraries, hailing from Richmond Hill and other places far, far away, sneezing and coughing and dejectedly declaring: “Ugh, I’m sick.” As a student with an inexplicable fear of getting sick, however, I know this is not something any of us can help, given the demanding nature of our courses.
- U of T Pandemic Preparedness says: “Sneeze into a tissue or your sleeve, not your hands.”
I observe: People sneezing into their (bare, bacteria-infested) hands. The next thing you know, they are probably shaking hands with you. A small but surely existent number also don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom. No joke.
- U of T Pandemic Preparedness says: “Academic Planning for H1N1: Strategies for Instructors at the University of Toronto”
Professors say: Uh, actually, most of them have yet to say anything regarding assignment submission and/or swine flu. I guess this means that the academic consequences of declaring flu absences on ROSI are still up in the air. As the above information states:
“Please keep in mind that during a pandemic students may be asked not to visit the doctor’s office unless their illness is especially severe, and therefore may not be able to obtain a doctor’s note documenting their illness. You may wish to develop alternative procedures for participation, absences or late submission of assignments that do not require verification of illness.”
Speaking of ROSI, here is a screen shot of what the Flu Absence Declaration page looks like:
Students are asked to record their absence as soon as it begins, up to and including the day they return to class. Besides qualifying the student for academic accommodation, this record helps the university monitor the numbers and locations of student absences for academic planning. To declare, simply click on “Flu Absence Declaration” on the left panel, then click on the small calendar button to choose the specific date of your absence, and click “Submit.”
It seems that the best-received precaution so far has been frequent hand sanitizing. Though it dries out your hands a little and maybe smells a bit harsh, hand sanitizer (in addition to soap) really is your best friend in terms of flu prevention. Although most portable bottles claim to be “anti-bacterial,” while H1N1 is a viral strain, the gel contains 62% ethanol, which breaks down the outer protective viral coating and subsequently kills existing viruses.
Whether we like it or not, swine flu is here to stay, and been been classified as a “pandemic” by the World Health Organization. The label simply means that the virus is easily spread among humans across the globe; since it’s not really a measure of the severity of the illness, there really is very little need to panic. Those friendly, Ikea-like flu-prevention posters, however, should not be ignored. Pay heed to them, and be a responsible hand-shaker.