As H1N1 counterattacks are well underway in hospitals and doctors’ offices across the country, colleges and universities are also stepping up their efforts to ensure the safety of students.

At the University of Victoria, where several cases of H1N1 were diagnosed among students and staff during the summer and early fall, an advisory planning group has met weekly since July to manage response and develop preventative measures.

“Given that H1N1 disproportionately targets young people, the university continues to take the H1N1 outbreak very seriously,” said Patty Pitts, UVic’s manager of media relations.

Food services is also developing a “grab and go” meal service, so sick students can avoid infecting others by not eating in the communal dining room. Also, fridges stocked with nutrition packs, soup, juice and Jello have been installed in various residence locations.

Pitts says the university has also established “self-contained rooms” where students who need to be separate from their residence communities can be housed; however, they have not yet had to use them.

For the fall 2009 semester, doctors’ notes are not required for absences of less than two weeks.

Similarly, the University of Calgary has launched an information campaign to let students know how to stay healthy through basic hand-washing and other preventative measures.

“It also makes sure that students and staff are aware of all the health services available on campus and in the larger Calgary community if they are sick,” said Grady Semmens, associate director of media relations.

As well, it has set up hand-sanitizer stations in high-volume areas, stockpiled protective gear such as gloves and masks in its residences and is in discussion with Alberta Health Services about the possibility of providing H1N1 vaccinations on campus.

It has also relaxed regulations requiring students to provide a doctor’s note if they have missed more than five days of school due to flu illnesses.

At York University, the institute’s Pandemic Planning Committee has installed hand-sanitizer stations in high-traffic areas and posted hand-washing posters in all washrooms and cafeterias.

Students sick with flu-like symptoms are asked to stay home and arrange a deferred standing agreement upon their return.

Alex Bilyk, York’s director of media relations, said there are no significant of H1N1 cases to report.

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