Influenza: Recommendations for MUSC Students, Faculty and Staff
Guest: Dr. Mike Schmidt - Basic Sciences/Microbiology & Immunology, MUSC
Host: Dr. Linda Austin – Psychiatrist, MUSC
Dr. Linda Austin: Dr. Mike Schmidt is Professor of Microbiology & Immunology here at the Medical University of South Carolina. Dr. Schmidt, in another podcast, we talked in general about H1N1 Influenza. Let’s target this conversation specifically to the MUSC family; the student, faculty, nursing staff, the whole employee population. What are your recommendations?
Dr. Mike Schmidt: My recommendation would be to follow what MUSC is all about. And that’s delivering excellent healthcare and patient safety. We, as employees, and students, and faculty, and staff, really have to practice what we’re preaching. So, if we do develop the symptoms of flu, we should stay home. It’s really simple. You know, you just stay home when you don’t feel well. And that’s the best thing we can do.
Dr. Linda Austin: You know, it’s such an obvious thing to do. And yet, in any medical community, probably a lot of work places, there’s a certain American heroism about forging on at work even if you’re at death’s door. And, of course, for the students, they’re very concerned about falling behind in their coursework. Will we be making any special allowances for those students who have to fall out of class for awhile?
Dr. Mike Schmidt: Linda, thanks for that question. This is, really, very important to us here on the university side of the MUSC. We’re really concerned about our students falling behind. So, we’ve made provisions to capture all the lectures that go on in the form of an enduring media product, so that you can actually catch up on what’s happened. We appreciate the fact that you’re not going to want to listen to the faculty talk while you’re ill, so they’re going to be archived. You’ll be able to access them very easily from your computer; from your iPod, your telephone. We’re going to make it all very simple for you to keep abreast.
For those students that are in small groups, and other activities, we’re going that extra mile to offer make-up sessions, so that you will not miss out on that especially exciting clinical clerkship that you’ve been so looking forward to. And similarly, our clinical colleagues are very much concerned about our students who may come into a clinical setting, because they don’t want to place our patients at risk. So, we’re encouraging you, if you’re ill, please stay home. And that stands for the faculty, as well as our students. So, we’ve gone that extra mile to watch out.
From the perspective of the faculty, we’ve gone out and found ourselves a buddy, so that if I happen to get the flu, there’s someone who can step into my shoes and make certain that my class doesn’t fall behind; because I’m actually staying home and not coming in, spreading this virus all over the place. Similarly, staff are also working on going that extra mile to help their colleagues and, you know, picking up the slack should people actually become ill and be required to stay home.
Dr. Linda Austin: And so, a buddy system might be nice for the students as well, to keep an eye out for each other.
Dr. Mike Schmidt: Absolutely. And, in fact, that’s one of the recommendations that we have made for our students, to get their study buddy to make certain if there’s anything especially important that went on in lecture, that the class was really inquiring about, that may not have been captured quite right on that tape, to really emphasize it to them; if there’s been an activity that wasn’t recorded, to bring it back to them.
Do it over the phone, rather than going to visit their home. And, also, students need buddies to make certain they’ve got enough food in the house. A study buddy could also be a health buddy as well; making certain they got that chicken soup that they need.
Dr. Linda Austin: Are there any special locations that, if this virus were to take off, and there was a lot of infection going around, students and faculty, and staff, should think twice about going to, for example, the Wellness Center, where people use equipment? It strikes me as a place where, if you’re picking up dumbbells that 25 people have been handling, that might be a place where a virus could lurk.
Dr. Mike Schmidt: We’ve had a lot of discussions about where this virus will go. This virus is transmitted by coughing, sneezing, and contact. So, you can actually put it on things like gym equipment. What we have done in our lecture halls, anticipating this, is to have alcohol hand sanitizers available, as well as antiviral wipes, that we actually place on keyboards, and on the mice. Similarly, I anticipate that the Wellness Center will make available these antiviral hand sanitizers, as well as these antiviral wipes, to wipe down the equipment on a much more frequent basis.
We’re watching this very carefully to understand how it’s spreading in our community. Charleston is, of course, blessed with very warm weather and, consequently, we haven’t seen the spike in the number of cases that some of our sister schools that the Northeast and Northwest have seen. As the temperatures fall, we may see an expansion of the spread of this virus. So, we’re going to pay special attention, and help our colleagues over in the Wellness Center decide when they really need to wipe down the dumbbells.
Dr. Linda Austin: What opportunities will there be for us to get vaccinated on campus?
Dr. Mike Schmidt: The vaccine is a really interesting story. We just learned, in the last few days, that the vaccine trials that came out of Australia, as well as those in the United States, have been very positive. Originally, we thought we were going to get three shots this year; once for the seasonal influenza that we normally get every year, and then two shots for this new variant, H1N1. The data from these clinical trials is very encouraging, suggesting that we’ll only need one shot for H1N1, which is outstanding news. And, this vaccine has been demonstrated to be very effective. You get protection within ten days of being vaccinated. So, that’s really great news.
When you’re offered an opportunity to get that shot in the arm, it really will be a shot in the arm, because it will protect you against this virus.
Dr. Linda Austin: Dr. Schmidt, tell us about the flu kits.
Dr. Mike Schmidt: Everybody should have in their home what we’re affectionately referring to as the Flu Kit. We all have our hurricane kits. We should also have the flu kit. The three things that you need in your standard flu kit: a thermometer that can measure your temperature, which you can get at any drug store; they’re very inexpensive, less than $5.00, or so. Then you should have some hand sanitizer to effectively disinfect your area at home, as well as to protect anyone that you may be living with from catching the flu, should you have it. And then the final item you should have is an over-the-counter anti-fever medication. The best examples are acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin. And, you, of course, know which one works best for you, and that will lower your fever, and generally make you feel better.
And, of course, you can then dip into the hurricane food to get the canned goods that you may need, because you won’t be going to the grocery store.
Dr. Linda Austin: There you go. And, of course, if you think you have the flu, call your doctor so that you could potentially get a medication like Tamiflu, if needed.
Dr. Mike Schmidt: Absolutely. The trick with the flu kit is to use the thermometer. Figure out if you have a fever. And then you, yourself, can be the best judge if you’ve got the cough, or upper respiratory thing, or the lethargy, where you’re too tired to text.
Dr. Linda Austin: Dr. Schmidt, thanks so much for talking with us today.
Dr. Mike Schmidt: Thank you, Linda.
If you have any questions about the services or programs offered at the Medical University of South Carolina, or if you’d like to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians, please call MUSC Health Connection at: (843) 792-1414.