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How to protect yourself from influenza

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Elizabeth A. Thomson
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The following tips for how you can protect yourself from an influenza pandemic and what MIT is doing to prepare for a pandemic are excerpted from the January 2007 issue of EHS News & Views, a newsletter published by MIT's Environment, Health and Safety Office. The full article, "Pandemic Flu is Nothing to Crow About," by EHS officer Susan Leite, is available at

What you can do:

· Get a flu shot. The flu vaccine changes from year to year and having some immunity helps mitigate, if not prevent, flu symptoms, should you be exposed.

· Wash your hands conscientiously. Soap and water are fine, rub both hands for 15 to 20 seconds, then rinse. Carry alcohol-based gel or hand sanitizers with you, in case you are not able to get to a sink.

· Practice cough/sneeze hygiene. The following video is amusing but makes some clear points about how to cough/sneeze without transferring germs to others or spreading germs to your nose, eyes and mouth--the common routes for transmission for flu. Go to .

· Help your immune system. Remember to make time for rest, try to eat nutritiously and stay hydrated.

· Home preparedness. Most of us shop from week to week, but in a severe pandemic, ability to travel and the ability of stores to keep stocks may change. Consider a three-week supply of non-perishable food: soup, granola bars, bottled water, dried fruit. Look for healthy options. Also consider your medical supplies--prescriptions, contact lens solution, vitamins, etc.

· Develop office/work preparedness plans.
- Is your personal emergency contact information up-to-date?
- Are your files backed up?
- Are your job activities such that you can work from home? If so, are you presently set up to work from home?
- Work within your department to develop a preparedness plan.

What is MIT doing to prepare for a pandemic?

MIT has established a web site for pandemic illness information,, which will be updated with additional guidance for individuals and departments. In the meantime, MIT has taken the following steps:

· The Medical Department continues to offer the flu vaccination program and is working with the Environment, Health and Safety Office to address proper protective equipment and hygiene measures. MIT has purchased an initial supply of respirators/masks as a protective measure. Dispensers for alcohol-based hand sanitizers have also been purchased for the dormitories.

· Dr. David Diamond of the Medical Department and Bill Van Schalkwyk, managing director of environmental programs, have been conducting "pandemic road shows" aimed at raising awareness among the Institute's administrative and academic departments and identifying key policy issues to resolve.

· The Department of Facilities has formed a team to look at essential functions that are provided to the Institute and has begun planning for how these services can continue to be delivered.

· Human Resources has begun identifying and planning compensation and attendance policies to address impacts of pandemic flu.

· The Environment, Health and Safety Office will be working with departments to provide technical guidance for laboratory and non-laboratory spaces.

· The Division of Student Life has formed a team to prepare for pandemic flu and has begun planning activities across its various subdivisions--housing, dining, athletics, campus activities and others.

· The Division of Undergraduate Education has begun looking at impacts to continuity of classes and the education program.

Questions or comments may be submitted to Please indicate "pandemic flu" in the subject line.

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