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2009 H1N1 Flu

August 28, 2009

Although the college years are a time when students are establishing independence and solving problems on their own, we typically tell parents that there are three areas where parents should remain involved with their student. These include mental health issues, physical health issues, and finances. This year, because of H1N1 flu, we’re calling on parents to be especially alert and aware of potential health problems.

There are some specific steps you can take.

First, please be sure your student has a flu care kit with the following items:

  • Tissues
  • Hand sanitizers
  • Disinfecting wipes (to clean surfaces)
  • Thermometer
  • Fever reducing medication such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen
  • Bottled water and other nourishing fluids

The H1N1 flu is likely to affect students for five to seven days. With this strain of flu, students who have a fever and feel ill should not go to class or attend events where they will be in close proximity to others. Students have received a message from the University explaining recommended prevention and treatment.

Talk with your student now about what to do in case of flu. Students who can return home to recover are encouraged to do so. They should not, however, use public transportation (buses, trains, or airplanes). Those who stay on campus are expected to avoid going to class or to campus events until 24 hours after their fever subsides. They should stay in their room or apartment and rest. In most cases, the flu is expected to be mild, and with self-care they will recover in a week or less.

Students with underlying medical concerns such as diabetes, asthma, sickle-cell disease, cardiovascular disease, a compromised immune system, or a pregnancy should establish a care plan with their medical provider now, before they get sick.

Parents of first-year students: We have found that when freshmen prepare for college, they do not imagine the possibility that they may get sick. For most freshmen, the first illness is an exercise in denial as they refuse to give in to fever, chills, or a cough. They struggle to go to class, even when they’re feeling badly, because they’re afraid of what they’ll miss. They may need a reminder from you to stay in bed if they’re sick.

Parents of upperclassmen: Your students are more willing to understand that missing a day or two of classes is sometimes necessary, but they still believe they can’t afford to skip a whole week’s worth of instruction. They too may need to hear that it’s all right to stay home and rest.

We are relying on parents and roommates to be alert to a student’s health condition. Health advocates living in the residence halls can answer questions about symptoms and provide basic assistance if necessary, and residence hall staff are on duty 24 hours a day. Students living in a house or apartment off campus and who cannot return home during an illness are asked to talk with roommates about caring for one another and to identify friends who could check in or deliver supplies.

We know that a widespread outbreak could mean that an entire household of students may fall ill at the same time. We also know that some students, especially new transfer students and international students who have not yet established a support system on campus, may need help getting supplies and food. If your student needs help and cannot otherwise obtain basic supplies and food, either you or your student can contact the University Parent Program (e-mail, and we will make arrangements to check in with your student and deliver a package of supplies, soup, and juice.

Please keep in mind, this is not an emergency response effort, and we will not be able to provide medical assessment or assistance; in case of emergency, students should call 911.

The University Safety and Security team will be monitoring this fall’s flu situation closely, and updated information will be posted at the University’s H1N1 Web site. More information about the 2009 H1N1 flu virus is at We will also update parents about H1N1 developments through the parent Listserv, and information will be included on the University Parent Web site.

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University of Minnesota Pandemic Influenza Response Plan (332 K pdf)