University of North Dakota Faculty/Staff Newsletter

Influenza and related illnesses have increased; Student Health suspends medical excuses

Student Health Services has seen an increase in both influenza and influenza-like illnesses since the start of spring semester and predictions, are for a higher number and severity of both this season.

Many people think influenza is the stomach flu (vomiting and diarrhea), but it actually is a serious respiratory illness. Symptoms are fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, body aches, chills, feeling weak or more tired than usual, and can include vomiting and/or diarrhea. You may not have all the symptoms and still have influenza.

When to seek medical help

Influenza is a serious, contagious, viral infection of the respiratory tract.  Get medical help right away if you or someone you know develops these emergency signs:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough.

Avoid the flu 

The flu viruses can be spread from 1-2 days before you get the symptoms and 5 to 7 days after symptoms begin.  Ways to avoid spreading influenza:

  • Get the flu shot (Set up your appointment at Student Health Services at 701.777.4500).
  • Cover your cough or sneeze.
  • Stay home when sick, for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without using fever reducing medicines.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Clean your hands often.
  • Clean & disinfect surfaces that may be contaminated with flu germs.
  • Keep your distance (six feet).

Individuals at high risk

High risk individuals should see a health care provider if they develop an influenza like illness to obtain the antiviral treatment.  Individuals who are at high risk include those with any of the following conditions:

  • Asthma
  • Blood disorders
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Endocrine disorders like diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disorders
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Morbid obesity
  • Neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions
  • Younger than 19 years old on chronic aspirin therapy
  • Weakened immune systems due to disease or medication (HIV, AIDS, cancer, chronic steroids)

Antiviral Medications may lessen the severity or length of influenza illness. The medications are most effective if started within 48 hours of becoming sick.

Temporary suspension of medical excuses  

To help UND Student Health Services (SHS) prioritize its resources to assist the campus community, SHS is temporarily suspending the provision to students of medical excuses for short-term absences from class or missed deadlines or assignments due to illness and/or injury.

As a student this means you will not be able to obtain a medical excuse from SHS at this time for short-term absences from class or missed deadlines or assignments due to illness.  Instead, students are encouraged to promptly notify their instructors and work out appropriate accommodations.  Students will be asked to refer to the course syllabus for course guidelines on such matters.  Instructors are being notified of this temporary measure.

The following resources are available for more information:

-- Michelle D. Eslinger-Schneider, Director, Student Health Services; Mark Christenson, Medical Director, Student Health Services; Nicole Haese, Student Health Advisory Committee president.