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Pandemic preparations continuing

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Published: 19 Jun 2009

What is McGill doing about the flu and how it might affect the University?

As concern spreads about the potential effect the H1N1 flu pandemic might have on University operations now and in the fall, it is important to outline some of the steps McGill is taking to minimize disruption to people and operations.

The current influenza virus – H1N1 – is, in most cases, comparatively mild, requiring home care and an absence from work for a few days to a week. There is concern on the part of public health authorities, however, that this virus could mutate and return in a more severe form later this year or early next.

So it is important for all of us to take flu seriously and plan accordingly.

McGill has established a pandemic planning group, which includes representatives from administrative, academic, staff and student groups, to support the University community as plans are completed to cope with a more severe flu outbreak, should one arise. You may be called upon to help in this effort and we appreciate your full and prompt co-operation.

Some of the things this group is working on include:

  • developing planning guidelines to assist units with their planning – on a detailed, department by department basis – to ensure the continued smooth running of the University and its operations in the event of heightened absenteeism due to more widespread illness. More information will be distributed as it becomes available throughout the summer.
  • planning for more serious (and, we hope, remote) eventualities that might include responding to demands by public health authorities to curtail certain activities at the University
  • providing the maximum amount of information to staff and students about how the flu is affecting the University, offering more information about flu in the wider community and what steps people need to take to protect themselves as best they can from infection
  • repeating and publicizing the key measures everyone should take to minimize the transmission of the virus from one person to another.

There are things McGill can do to prepare for a more serious flu situation and there are things it can’t do.

One thing the University can’t do is to keep the virus off our campuses. These are public spaces visited by tens of thousands of people every day, including students, staff and visitors. There is no doubt the flu virus will come on to our campuses, in fact it already has. McGill cannot protect you from picking up the flu here or elsewhere; we can and do urge all to do their level best to minimize its spread.

As always, the University strongly encourages everyone to take the simple but effective steps known to help limit the spread of the virus:

  • wash your hands frequently and thoroughly,
  • cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm, not your hands, and
  • if you experience the symptoms associated with the flu, stay home until you are better.

When there is new information to share, we will do so promptly. The Health and Wellness website is being revamped and updated to include information about the flu as well as information about the University’s pandemic planning and how you might be affected. As soon as the update is complete, we will send a note to let you know.

In the meantime, for more information on flu, the following links are useful:

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