LI colleges plan ahead for possible swine flu outbreak

Parents helped students move into Stony Brook University Parents helped students move into Stony Brook University on Friday. Photo Credit: Uli Seit

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Mo Krochmal, a Hofstra University journalism professor who specializes in new media, is pondering alternative ways of teaching - streaming video, PowerPoint presentations and e-mail - if H1N1 spawns a virulent campus outbreak this fall.

The university, which has an H1N1 planning committee, encourages the use of new media, and the panel has brainstormed on numerous ways lessons can be made engaging under emergency conditions.

Krochmal worries not only about his students - many of whom are in a key demographic to catch the flu - but his own vulnerability: He commutes from his Manhattan home to Hempstead by subway and the Long Island Rail Road. A Web-based class may prove necessary, he said, because the instructor might get sick.

"There's going to be a lot of hand washing and maybe even a lot of masking. I know I'll be scrubbing up," Krochmal said. "But, really, you just have to go at it and get out there, and make sure you've got your karma right because you can't live in fear."

Online education is just one of the ways Long Island institutions of higher learning are planning to handle a possible H1N1 resurgence.

Gary Kaczmarczyk, health and safety director at Stony Brook University, which also has a committee to deal with flu-related issues, said preparedness planners there have emphasized a message of prevention.

"We're ramping up communications for our students, advising them and encouraging good hygiene - good hand-washing practices and the use of hand sanitizers," Kaczmarczyk said. "We're also handing out brochures that explain what to do if they get sick. And, of course, if students do get sick, we're asking them to self-isolate if they are a resident student and to notify student health services."

Stony Brook also is providing hand sanitizers at computer workstations where numerous people handle equipment.

Stepped-up preparedness comes as new federal H1N1 guidelines for colleges stress that institutions have concerns beyond those facing K-12 school districts. Colleges have resident students, which means influenza can smolder and flare in dormitories, not to mention 300-seat lecture theaters.

The new guidelines recommend college students establish a "flu buddy scheme" and pair up to care for each other in the event of illness. Students should wear surgical masks when coping with the flu.

At Adelphi University, the Threat Assessment Team is monitoring federal reports about H1N1, and is blanketing the campus with information about cough etiquette and hand washing.

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