2018 Guidelines for Influenza Cases on Campus

January 24, 2018

Dear Colleagues,

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), influenza is now widespread across much of the United States. The season seems to be peaking a little earlier than usual, and the Tang Center and local medical clinics have been very busy caring for students, faculty, and staff during the beginning of this semester.  So far this year, seasonal influenza A H3N2 viruses have again been most common, although H1N1 and Influenza B viruses are also in circulation. Historically there often are more severe flu illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths during seasons when H3N2 viruses predominate, and this year appears to be no exception, but most healthy adults are not likely to suffer significant complications, and there is minimal resistance reported to antiviral medications.

To help reduce the burden of influenza on the Berkeley campus, the Tang Center is advising students and staff with flu-like illness to follow CDC recommendations for self-isolation until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever, and to take good care of themselves through rest and hydration in order to ensure a rapid recovery.  The Academic Senate and the administration have developed the following guidelines to help instructors respond to students who become ill:

  • Announce to students that they should not come to class if they become ill. The University has adopted the CDC recommendation that members of the campus community who develop flulike illness should self-isolate until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever or signs of fever without the use of medication. Let your students know that they should follow this recommendation in deciding whether or not to come to class.
  • Use flexibility and good judgment in excusing student absences and waive requirements for written excuses from medical personnel. Many healthy people with influenza experience a mild to moderate illness and recover without the need to seek medical attention but still need to be isolated until the fever is resolved. Therefore, instructors are asked to waive any requirement for written excuses in their courses. This action will assist in boosting University Health Service’s capacity to treat students that actually need medical evaluation and treatment.
  • Be prepared to offer accommodation to students who must miss exams or assignment deadlines due to illness. Have a plan for handling requests to make up work that maintains fairness and equity. Recognize that in some instances work or exams may simply need to be excused or an alternative assignment substituted. Consider how you might use educational technologies to allow students to work from home once they are feeling better but are still self-isolating.

In addition, every indicator thus far is that seasonal flu vaccine IS somewhat effective this year (contrary to some media reports), and they are still available for students by appointment at the Tang Center as well as through periodic flu clinics and many local pharmacies and providers. Please see our website for more information about flu and flu shots. 

The administration will be monitoring flu cases on campus closely as the semester progresses and will issue appropriate communications. In the meantime, instructors are urged to be flexible in dealing with student absences.

We appreciate your cooperation in maintaining the health of the campus community. Resources for faculty have been posted on the Center for Teaching and Learning. If you have questions, please contact teaching@berkeley.edu with the subject line “Flu Guidelines.”

Best regards,

Catherine P. Koshland
Vice Chancellor, Undergraduate Education