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Fox-Eldridge ready to isolate students with flu

Sept. 17, 2009

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University has two adjoining residence halls ready to isolate students with flu from others living in University housing.

Eldridge and Fox halls, part of the Valley 3 residence hall complex, have approximately 250 rooms prepared to receive students, and another 250 could be ready on about two days notice. Fox-Eldridge was not in use, and no students were displaced.

"Complete isolation—which means having your own room—is absolutely essential to containing the spread of the virus," says Dr. Diane Anderson, WMU vice president for student affairs. "Most of our residence hall accommodations are two-to-a-room and four-person suites."

Many students will want to go home

"Many students with flu will want to go home to recover," says Anderson, "and that would be our first choice, too. For some students, however, that is not possible or practical. For those students, we are providing and requiring isolation in Fox-Eldridge.

"We are committed to protecting our students from the spread of the H1N1 virus as much as possible. Residence hall directors have been instructed to arrange for the immediate isolation of students with flu symptoms by transferring them to Fox-Eldridge. Our only other option was to move the healthy students, which is not practical."

Anderson notes that dozens of other universities have taken similar steps. By placing those with flu in one hall, the University will be able to provide better support for ill students and to more-easily monitor their conditions. "For obvious reasons, Fox-Eldridge is off limits to all but authorized personnel."

How serious is swine flu?

Sindecuse Health Center has reported only a few dozen cases of influenza during the first two weeks of the school year. Some students are questioning the seriousness of the situation, since H1N1 has many of the characteristics of seasonal flu, and the treatment is largely the same.

"What most people don't seem to understand is few of us have any immunity to H1N1," says Dr. Lisa Marshall, WMU medical director, "while many of us have built up considerable resistance to seasonal flu. Unless those with the H1N1 virus are isolated from others, this could spread very rapidly and affect a much larger percentage of the campus community than we have ever experienced with seasonal flu."

More information and instructions for students are available on the Flu Information Web pages at wmich.edu/flu.

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Media contact: Thom Myers, (269) 387-8400, thom.myers@wmich.edu

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