Dear Members of the Harvard Community,
As students arrive back on campus and we find ourselves in the midst of cold and flu season, I want to remind you to be vigilant in taking precautions to prevent the spread of illnesses. Practicing good hygiene and ensuring that you have your flu vaccination are paramount to help ensure the health and safety of everyone in the community. Additionally, I want to share that the University is monitoring the global concern for the novel coronavirus coming out of Wuhan, China, and will continue to keep our community informed.
Staying healthy on campus
Although HUHS has not received indications to-date that Harvard University has experienced an unusual number of flu cases this winter, the number of reported cases in Massachusetts and across the country has begun to increase, as is customary for this time of year.
Simple measures can help lower your risk of getting sick. We all have a responsibility to prevent the spread of flu, cold, and other illnesses. Dense social and public spaces can present an increased risk of contracting and spreading illnesses, and prevention is centered on good hygiene:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water (20 seconds of scrubbing) or use alcohol-based hand cleaners (cover all surfaces and rub until dry).
- Cough/sneeze into a tissue. Dispose of used tissues immediately into a trash can. If you don’t have a tissue, cough/sneeze into the crook of your elbow, not your hands.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, which accelerates the spread of infections.
- Avoid close contact with others who are sick.
- If you are sick, avoid contact with others, including parties, meetings, and events.
- Do not share glasses, eating utensils, water bottles, cigarettes/vapes/JUULs, lipstick/makeup, etc.
Get your flu vaccine! (It’s not too late to benefit from it.)
For all Harvard students and any other members of the community who receive their care at HUHS, flu vaccines are still available at HUHS. If you have not yet received one, make an appointment through the HUHS patient portal or by contacting HUHS at (617) 495-5711. For all other members of the community, please contact your primary care provider (PCP) to get your flu vaccine.
If you think you may have the flu, please stay home and consult your PCP. Students are encouraged to call first and speak to a nurse about their symptoms at (617) 495-5711 before making an appointment or walking into HUHS.
We are closely monitoring the situation with the novel coronavirus coming out of China. While we have no indication that Massachusetts or the Harvard campus are affected, we are working diligently to ensure that our clinical staff are prepared if someone presents to HUHS with symptoms and a clinical history that may indicate the novel coronavirus.
We will continue to update the HUHS website as additional information becomes available through the CDC and Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Please visit our website for updates. Keep in mind that the prevention measures described above for the flu and other illnesses also help protect from coronavirus.
For anyone who recently returned from China (particularly the Wuhan area):
- If you feel well, please follow the routine advice listed above while you go about your daily activities.
- If you develop respiratory symptoms or fever within 14 days of travel, call HUHS or your personal healthcare provider for phone consultation.
For more information
Visit the following sites for comprehensive information about:
- Seasonal flu: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm
- Coronavirus: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
- Viral illness prevention: https://huhs.harvard.edu/about-us/announcements-events/how-protect-yourself-viral-illness
Wishing you good health as you begin the new semester!
Giang T. Nguyen, MD, MPH, MSCE, FAAFP
Henry K. Oliver Chair of Hygiene
Executive Director, Harvard University Health Services