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Interim CDC Guidance for Colleges, Universities, and Post-secondary Educational Institutions in Response to Human Infections with Novel Influenza A (H1N1) Virus

May 6, 2009 7:00 PM ET

These recommendations are based on current information and are subject to change based on ongoing surveillance and continuous risk assessment.

These recommendations are based on current information and are subject to change based on ongoing surveillance and continuous risk assessment.


This document provides interim guidance specific for universities during the outbreak of novel influenza A (H1N1) virus on suggested means to reduce the spread of influenza in universities and their communities. These recommendations are based on the recognition of sustained human to human transmission of this new virus, spread across much of the United States, and information which suggests most cases of illness from this virus are similar in severity to seasonal influenza. However, recommendations may need to be revised as more information becomes available.

Interim Recommendations:

  • CDC is not currently recommending that colleges, universities, or post-secondary educational institutions cancel or dismiss classes or other large gatherings.
  • If confirmed cases of novel influenza A (H1N1) virus infection or a large number of cases of influenza like illness (ILI) (i.e. fever with either cough or sore throat) occur among students, faculty, or staff or in the community, university officials should consult with state and local health officials regarding an appropriate response.
  • Because the spread of novel influenza A (H1N1) within a health professions school may pose special concerns, school administrators are strongly encouraged to contact their state and local public health authorities if they suspect that cases of ILI are present on their campuses.
  • Students, faculty or staff who live either on or off campus and who have ILI should self-isolate (i.e., stay away from others) in their dorm room or home for 7 days after the onset of illness or at least 24 hours after symptoms have resolved, whichever is longer.
  • Persons with ILI, who wish to seek medical care, should contact their health care provider or university health services to report illness by telephone or other remote means before seeking care. Universities should assure that all students, faculty and staff receive messages about what they should do if they become ill with ILI, including reporting ILI to university health services.
  • If persons with ILI must leave their home or dorm room (for example, to seek medical care or other necessities) they should cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing and wear a loose-fitting (surgical) mask if available. (See Interim Guidance for H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu): Taking Care of a Sick Person in Your Home).
  • Roommates, household members, or those caring for an ill person should follow guidance developed for caring for sick persons at home. (See Interim Guidance for H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu): Taking Care of a Sick Person in Your Home)
  • Persons who are at high risk of complications from novel influenza A (H1N1) infection (for example, persons with certain chronic medical conditions, children less than 5 years, persons 65 or older, and pregnant women) should consider their risk of exposure to novel influenza if they attend public gatherings in communities where novel influenza A virus is circulating. Information on prevention of influenza, including mask use is available at Interim Recommendations for Facemask and Respirator Use.

Large gatherings

On the basis of what is currently known about the ongoing spread of novel influenza A (H1N1) and, as a means to prevent the further spread of disease on and off campus, universities should encourage persons with ILI to stay home and away from large gatherings. Persons who are sick, should be instructed to limit their contact with other people as much as possible and to stay home for 7 days after their symptoms begin or until they have been symptom-free for 24 hours, whichever is longer. In addition, they should be reminded to use appropriate respiratory and hand hygiene. (See H1N1 Flu and You). Gatherings may include graduations and commencement activities, concerts, sporting events, and other gatherings where close contact is likely between a large number of attendees. (See CDC Guidance for Public Gatherings.)

Large university and other public gatherings offer a good opportunity for officials and event organizers to deliver key educational messages about measures attendees can take to help protect themselves and their family members from novel influenza A (H1N1) infection, including active promotion of good hygiene practices. (See H1N1 Flu and You)

Universities should consider the following in preparation for possible outbreaks of novel influenza A (H1N1):

  • Establishing a relationship with their state and local health departments
  • Keeping informed regarding the evolving situation through regular visits to the CDC's H1N1 Flu web site
  • Developing educational messages in a variety of formats regarding the illness and how to reduce the spread of influenza. (See H1N1 Flu and You).
  • Alternative educational delivery such as distance learning, web-based learning, or other ways to increase social distancing.
  • Planning for assistance for students with ILI, including provision for meals, medications, and other care.
  • Developing contingency plans for how to reduce exposure of non-ill students to ill students.

For more information, see: H1N1 Flu Guidance

  • Links to non-federal organizations are provided solely as a service to our users. These links do not constitute an endorsement of these organizations or their programs by CDC or the federal government, and none should be inferred. CDC is not responsible for the content of the individual organization Web pages found at these links.
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