Universities are on alert for returning students who display symptoms of swine flu. Some have bought surgical face masks to offer to staff members and students and plan to run workshops to educate them of the dangers of the H1N1 virus. While most institutions are not screening returning students, staff are being asked to be vigilant and ensure that any who appear to be sick seek medical treatment.
At Murdoch University's campus at Dubai International Academic City, there is a "quite extensive awareness campaign" going on, according to Maisa Mannila, the university's head of marketing and public relations. "We've put up some leaflets and we've organised a [briefing] for the staff and when the semester starts for the students," she said. "We have a supply of masks and extra supplies of soap and disinfectant."
Any staff or students who have flu-like symptoms will be given a face mask. The masks will also be made available to anybody who wants to wear one as a preventative measure. At the University of Wollongong in Dubai, the vice president for administration, Raymi van der Spek, said the campus would probably run an awareness campaign and that anyone who felt ill could visit an on-site clinic and nurse.
"We're certainly not looking at delaying the start [of term] or quarantining people with a fresh stamp in their passport," he added. At the New York Institute of Technology in Abu Dhabi all staff members are on "high alert" and looking out for people who might have contracted the virus, a spokeswoman said. In an e-mail to students, the American University of Sharjah told them to contact the university health clinic's emergency number if they experienced flu-like symptoms, but also told students "don't panic".
Each of the university's dormitories has a room set aside for people believed to have contracted swine flu. Students with their own rooms who are thought to have contracted the illness will be asked to remain there. "Posters and disseminating information to students is part of the process we're following here," said Farid Alvie, a spokesman. Workshops for students are also planned at Ajman University of Science and Technology, said Yasmine al Shami, a spokeswoman.
The assistant director of Zayed University's Abu Dhabi campus, Kevin Schoepp, said there were no plans to screen students as the health authorities had not recommended it. However, the university is preparing to post advice on its website and is also sending students e-mails and distributing brochures. "Some leaflets have been included in the information given to students," Mr Schoepp said. The University of Sharjah is also screening incoming students for swine flu.
Many university students have already begun the new academic year, while others will start classes over the coming weeks. firstname.lastname@example.org