Cornell Health has been been making adjustments in operation and pharmacy supply over the last few months to prevent and deal with a potential flu outbreak. These steps are being taken in light of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designating influenza as “widespread” in nearly all 50 states.
The CDC raised the influenza activity level in New York State from “regional” to the current “widespread” on Dec. 16. However, according to Dr. Anne Jones ’04, director of medical services at Cornell Health, the number of students affected at the University is “modest.”
Jones said Cornell Health has taken this period of time to prepare for an increasing number of patients and has accumulated enough vaccines — the “most important step in prevention” — to meet the demands of the Cornell community.
“Ten thousand people took flu shots in the fall semester, and we are really happy with this result,” she told The Sun.
Sharon Dittman, director for community relations at Cornell Health, credits those who have received the vaccines as “important campus partners” whose proactiveness allows Cornell Health to fight the influenza effectively.
As students return to campus from many “high incidence regions” across the country and the world, Cornell Health also aims to raise its efficiency in carrying out appointments and treatment with what Jones called “nimble staffing.” This technique is meant to cope with a possible significant outbreak.
“We are monitoring people’s needs and will make adjustments based on that,” Jones explained. “We will send more clinicians to answer the phones if people call to consult, or they will take more appointments if people choose to come in.”
This semester, Cornell Health is also starting to offer extended evening walk-in hours from 5 to 7 p.m. for emergencies.
Jones’ advice to students who live in the dormitories on campus, whose stuffiness often facilitates the contagion of influenza, is to wash hands frequently and stay home when sick to minimize the spread of the virus.
“Be a good Cornell citizen and don’t go out,” Jones said, quoting one of her colleagues. “If you start to rest earlier, you’ll recover earlier.”
According to Jones, Cornell Health has alerted the Dean of Faculty and the Provost of the potential absence of students, faculty and staff who will follow such advice and stay home.
When asked about the difference between a cold and influenza, Jones advises against “diagnosing yourselves” when common symptoms such as fever, running nose or muscle ache start to show.
“The same strand of virus often acts differently in different bodies,” she said. “You can have very light symptoms for a flu and really strong symptoms for a cold.”
She encouraged students to consult physicians whenever they are unsure of their physical state.
Cornell Health also plans to distribute flyers that will help people decide whether they need medical assistance, according to Dittman.