Administrators of Institutions of Higher Education

Flu Prevention at Colleges and Universities

College Administrator on the phone at work.

Colleges and universities provide many ways for people to interact. Campuses are filled with classrooms and dormitories, where students are close together. Institutions of higher education support many activities and large events for community members and neighbors. There are many opportunities for respiratory illnesses like the flu to spread.

Getting vaccinated against the flu every year is the best way to prevent seasonal flu. Nonpharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) can also help people protect themselves and others from getting and spreading the flu. NPIs are especially important during outbreaks of pandemic flu. A pandemic flu outbreak occurs when a new flu virus appears among people. Because it’s a new virus, we have little or no immunity to it. This allows the virus to spread quickly from person to person around the world. It may take months before an effective vaccine is developed.

  • What you can do personally (Personal NPIs): Stay home when you are sick. Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • What communities can do (Community NPIs): Implement social distancing interventions in schools, workplaces, and at events.
  • What everyone can do to keep the environment germ-free (Environmental NPIs): Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects like door knobs.
  • CDC provides educational resources and training on how to incorporate personal, community, and environmental NPIs into your pandemic flu plans.

The actions you take and the plans you make today make a difference. Here are some important steps for protecting yourself, your staff, and your students from getting and spreading the flu both on and off campus:

Time for Action.

What to do:

  • Consider offering the seasonal flu vaccine at campus health center. If not, know where and when the seasonal flu vaccine is being offered.
  • Stay informed about your local flu situation, including possible closures in nearby colleges and universities or public school districts.
  • Coordinate with state, tribal, local, and territorial public health officials.

* During a flu pandemic *

  • Make plans for what to do in the event that your local public health department recommends closing schools or canceling events.
  • Get the pandemic flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available in your area.
Gloved hand cleaning surface with a sponge.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as telephones, desks, keyboards, and doorknobs.
  • Provide supplies that promote healthy hygiene, including tissues, soap, and hand sanitizer.
Communication by blog, email, phone, contact, meeting, and relation.

3. Communicating with students and staff about flu prevention through emails, websites, posters, social media, and text messages.

  • Encourage students and staff to get the seasonal flu vaccine.
  • Encourage students and staff to take everyday preventive actions, such as staying home or in their dorm room and out of class when they are sick, covering their coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and washing their hands often with soap and water.
  • Encourage them to clean the surfaces and objects that they touch frequently.

* During a flu pandemic *

  • Encourage students and staff to get the pandemic flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available in your area.
  • Consider canceling extracurricular events, such as sports practices and meetings.
  • Students, faculty, and staff should avoid gathering in other places when campus is closed.
  • Reinforce the importance of people staying home or in their dorm room when they are sick.
Group of 5 people having a meeting.
  • Connect with your local public health department to establish or review the pandemic flu plan for your community.
  • Develop an emergency communication plan to share information with staff, parents, and students during a flu pandemic.
  • Share the pandemic flu and emergency communication plans with staff.
  • Support flexible attendance and sick leave policies for students and staff.
  • Develop a system to alert the local public health department about large increases in absenteeism due to flu-like symptoms in students and staff.
  • Identify ways to continue student education if campus closes, including web-based instruction, email, local television or radio.
  • Work with partners to ensure that social, medical, and meal services can continue operations even if campus closes.
  • Develop a “flu buddy” system for students in which students pair up to care for each other if one or the other becomes sick, and provide separate accommodations for students who become sick on campus.