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Interim Guidance for UMDNJ Employees and Students Regarding Novel Influenza A (H1N1)

July 16, 2009

The following is provided to update the UMDNJ community on circumstances and activities related to novel influenza A (H1N1), also known as swine flu. UMDNJ is committed to supporting the safety, health, and wellness of all members of the University community.

Recently, the outbreak of the novel influenza A (H1N1) virus was designated a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). It's important to note that this designation refers to the global spread of the virus, and not to the severity of the illness caused by the virus.

Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, tiredness, vomiting, and diarrhea. Collectively, these symptoms make up a syndrome known as influenza-like illness ( ILI). A number of students and employees at UMDNJ have been sick with ILI, and because of the high correlation between ILI and influenza A, with the novel H1N1 flu, anyone with these symptoms should follow the recommendations described below.

Physicians, house staff, nurses, technicians, other healthcare providers, students, and ancillary staff who have contact with patients have an ethical obligation to protect them from harm. This includes protecting patients from unnecessary exposure to infectious pathogens (e.g., influenza virus) that the employee/student may be inadvertently carrying. It is imperative that we remember that many of our patients are at high risk of developing serious complications, including death, if they become infected with the novel H1N1 virus. Our patients have placed their trust in us to deliver the best healthcare available, therefore strict adherence to our guidelines to prevent transmission of influenza in our institution is not a choice but our responsibility.

Novel influenza A (H1N1) generally causes a mild to moderate influenza illness that does not seem to make individuals more ill than the usual seasonal flu. The vast majority of people fully recover after they acquire this illness, unless they have other underlying medical problems. So far, with novel H1N1 flu, the largest number of confirmed and probable cases have occurred in people between the ages of 5 and 24. Pregnancy and other previously recognized high risk medical conditions from seasonal influenza appear to be associated with increased risk of complications from this novel H1N1 flu. Anti-viral influenza medications such as Tamiflu® (oseltamivir phosphate) and Relenza® (zanamavir) can be effective in decreasing symptoms by 24-48 hours, but should be given within 24 hours from the onset of symptoms to have any benefit; these medications do not cure the disease. There are currently no vaccines available for novel influenza A (H1N1).

The University continues to operate under normal conditions; events and activities will continue as scheduled. The UMDNJ web page for information related to novel influenza A (H1N1) is:

http://ready.umdnj.edu/h1n1flu.shtml

The UMDNJ Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is monitoring the situation and is coordinating the UMDNJ-wide effort to prepare the UMDNJ community for any changes in activities that might become appropriate. Many other departments throughout the University are participating in this effort.

Detailed information that might specifically be useful for you regarding the University's preparations for and response to this situation follows. Please note, this is interim guidance. As new information becomes available, it will be provided through updates posted on www.umdnj.edu, through various other communication mechanisms, and by changes to this document. The University's leadership continues to work on the issues surrounding novel influenza A (H1N1) and their potential effect on UMDNJ operations.

For All Employees and Students (and Visitors, where appropriate)

  • Stay informed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) websites on novel influenza A (H1N1) are updated regularly with useful information:

http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/ (CDC)

http://www.nj.gov/health/er/h1n1/ (DHSS)

  • The novel influenza A (H1N1) virus, like all flu viruses, causes respiratory disease that can spread from person to person. Therefore, you should:
    • Practice good cough/sneeze etiquette - cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze; alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
    • Stay home if you are sick; the CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
    • Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds, and other social distancing measures.
  • At the beginning of all large social gatherings, including large classes, the convener should remind attendees of the following:

"Remember...the Surgeon General recommends that you use good cough etiquette at all times. Cough or sneeze into your sleeve or a tissue, not into your hands. And be sure to wash your hands often, especially after you cough or sneeze."

  • People who do not have symptoms of flu can work or attend school, even if they have an ill person at home. In other words, if you have been exposed to an ill person, and you are not sick, you can work or attend school as normal.
  • If you are ill with influenza-like illness ( ILI):
    • If you are at work, then put on a surgical mask, notify your supervisor and go home, and contact your personal health care provider, as necessary.
    • You should stay home for at least seven (7) days or until your symptoms resolve, whichever is longer. When you return to work after your absence, you can return directly back to your work area or school and report to your supervisor. Please see details below in the relevant sections for additional return to work/school requirements.
  • Information about and details of the University's all-hazards Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) can be found at: http://ready.umdnj.edu/EOP.shtml
  • In the event that the University alters its operations due to this outbreak, information will be made available through a variety of mechanisms, including:

For Employees and Students with Patient Contact

  • You must wash your hands frequently, BEFORE and AFTER every patient encounter and touching potentially contaminated surfaces.
    • Use either an alcohol-based cleaner (> 60% alcohol) or wash with soap and water for at least twenty (20) seconds.
  • If a patient you are working with has a flu-like illness, you must place a surgical mask on the patient and you must wear an N-95 respirator and other personal protective equipment, as indicated.
    • If it has been over one (1) year since you were last fit-tested for an N-95 respirator, you must be fit- tested. Please speak with your supervisor.
  • UMDNJ is currently not offering pre-exposure antiviral prophylaxis.
  • For information about post-exposure antiviral prophylaxis, please speak with your supervisor.
  • If you are pregnant; over age 65; have chronic pulmonary, cardiovascular, hepatic, hematological, neurologic, neuromuscular, or metabolic disorders; have immunosuppression (including immunosuppression caused by medications or by HIV); and/or, otherwise a member of a high risk group (see: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/identifyingpatients.htm#groupsatrisk), and you are concerned about potential work- or school-related exposure to patients with novel influenza A (H1N1), please speak with your supervisor and consult your personal physician.
  • Managers and supervisors with related questions should speak with the Campus Occupational Medicine/Employee Health Service or Student Health Service, as appropriate; the Department of Human Resources (see below, Human Resources-related issues), as appropriate; and/or with the Office of Workplace Diversity in cases involving potential disability (see below, Workplace Diversity-related Issues).

For Students (All Schools)

  • The attendance policy for each school remains in effect, unless otherwise noted by the school.
  • Students with influenza-like illness ( ILI) should adhere to the guidelines above, and must make appropriate notifications to instructors and/or administrators according to their school's procedures.
  • Contact your campus Student Health Service office for instructions regarding possible clinical evaluation of your ILI symptoms.
  • Contact the Associate Dean of Student Affairs, or equivalent, with questions regarding absenteeism and requirements for returning to school.

Human Resources-related Issues

  • The current Human Resources policies concerning sick leave remain in effect.
  • Employees with influenza-like illness ( ILI) should adhere to the guidelines above, utilizing their accrued sick time for the absence.
  • Departmental call-out procedures must be followed.
  • Staff employees must provide a doctor's note to their supervisor upon returning to work.
  • If your ILI is severe and subsequently defined as a "serious health condition" by your health care provider, and meets other eligibility criteria pursuant to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), or you are required to care for an eligible family member for a "serious health condition" as defined by FMLA, you may apply for such leave. Please review the Medical/FMLA policy at:

http://www.umdnj.edu/hrweb/policies/pl404000.pdf

  • Employees with related questions should speak to their supervisors.
  • Managers and supervisors with related questions should contact Abbe Kanan, Esq., Director of Labor Relations; Margorie Michele, Director of Human Resources Services; their campus Labor Relations Coordinator; or, their assigned Human Resources Generalist.

Workplace Diversity-related Issues

  • Employees may be eligible for accommodations based on disability. For disability accommodation questions contact Laxmi Vazirani, Workplace Diversity Officer, or visit:

http://www.umdnj.edu/owdweb/disability/index.shtml

Risk and Claims Management-related Issues

  • It is noteworthy that infectious illnesses prevalent in the general population, such as colds and the flu, are not circumstances that generally allow employees to be compensated under Workers' Compensation law.
  • That being said, the compensability of individual circumstances will be considered based upon the merits and extraordinary nature of a particular occurrence.
  • Accordingly, absent a circumstance being deemed to be compensable, the employee should seek treatment under their health care insurance plan as they would for any normal cold, flu, or other similar illness.
  • In accordance with UMDNJ policies, an incident report must be completed by the employee's supervisor if an employee believes that an on-the-job exposure has occurred, and/or if the employee believes that his/her injury or illness is causally related to the work environment.

Documents

1. OSHA - How to Protect Yourself in the Workplace
2. Respirators vs. Surgical Masks Fact Sheet
3. Pandemic Flu Respiratory Protection

For More Information

Past Updates

Please click here.