SARANAC LAKE - With school back in session and the threat of swine flu escalating, officials at one local college aren't taking any chances.
Paul Smith's College has mounted a substantial campaign to spread information about novel H1N1 influenza, while faculty and staff are meeting regularly to receive updates and revise prevention strategies aimed at avoiding a large-scale outbreak on campus.
Ken Aaron is the college's spokesman.
"We've been in touch with faculty and asked for leniency in terms of absence policies," he said. "What we're seeing is that most people are back on their feet in three to four days. If they take time to recover, they should be back in class in fairly short order. Our number one goal is that anyone who comes down with it, we get them healthy. Those who don't come down with it, we want to keep them healthy."
In the event that swine flu hits campus, the college has set up an empty dormitory to serve as a "self-isolation unit" to keep sick students away from the general population.
That building is the Alumni dorm and it was originally supposed to be offline.
"We decided to put in back online for this purpose," Aaron said. "It was initially supposed to be empty, but instead we decided to go in and do some renovations and now it's sitting there and ready to go. Fortunately we don't have anybody in there right now, but we're all kind of operating under the assumption that we're going to see it."
In addition, the college has posted educational information all over campus and installed hand sanitizers in nearly every building.
Reiko Rexilius-Tuthill is director of student health services at Paul Smith's College. She said students were flooded with information on H1N1 the moment they returned for the fall semester. And like Aaron, she assumes that swine flu will hit campus sooner or later.
"Let's face it; the flu is going to be here regardless and we're going to assume it's the bad-boy stuff," Tuthill said. "We educated, we're continuing to educate, and we've educated all the employees on the campus, so we're in sync with the information that's been handed out.
We've asked everyone to get on my list to receive the flu vaccine. I have a lengthy list that I've never had in the past. Right now we're just waiting for the flu vaccine to come in."
The college has also scheduled a vaccination clinic in coordination with Franklin County Public Health for October 22.
"Hopefully we'll get everyone vaccinated that wants one," Tuthill said.
For Tuthill, the fact that students have been approaching her and asking questions is promising.
"Sometimes with things like this, students don't key in until it's too late," she said. "Everyday I get questions on my email and my phone. They come into my office or snag me out on campus and ask me questions. They want to know more all the time, and they do stop me and ask to be on the vaccination list. And they're always looking for updates, wanting to know more and find out if the vaccines have arrived yet."
Tuthill also stressed the importance of not scaring students either.
"It's just about being vigilant," she said. "There's no reason to isolate yourself and hide from the rest of campus. Prevention and education is what it's going to take."