"We are focusing on patient education," Hutchinson said. "Getting students to recognize that they have to pay attention to the disease and engage in regular and frequent hand washing, they need to pay attention to cough etiquette and if they have any symptoms they can contact student health services. They should not come to school ill, or if they are a resident student they shouldn't go to class," she said.
"We have self-isolation guidelines if students cannot get home," Hutchinson said.
If the H1N1 swine flu became more severe than expected, additional precautions might be advised, the CDC said. This could include keeping sick students and staff home for a full week after symptoms clear up. And it might also involve implementing a "6-foot rule," asking people to maintain that distance from others to help avoid transmission of the virus.
Classes could be suspended if the H1N1 season proves particularly severe, and such decisions should include other mass gatherings such as sporting events and even commencement ceremonies, the CDC said.
The experts stressed that the timely delivery of an H1N1 vaccine could help curb any outbreak. Vaccine trials have already begun in adults, and on Tuesday officials at the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases announced that two clinical trials testing the effectiveness of candidate vaccines for children are set to "begin shortly."
"Students need to be encouraged, not only to take care of themselves and isolate themselves when they are sick, but, hopefully take advantage of the vaccine when it becomes available," U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said during the press conference.
Federal health officials announced Tuesday that they expect to only have 45 million doses of H1N1 vaccine on hand by Oct. 15, rather than the originally anticipated 120 million doses. After mid-October, 20 million more doses of the vaccine will be shipped each week, officials said.
Find out more on the new guidelines at flu.gov.
SOURCES: Aug. 20, 2009, press briefing with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius; Aug. 9, 2009, Kathryn Hutchinson, executive director, student wellness, St. John's University, New York City; CDC Guidance for Responses to Influenza for Institutions of Higher Education during the 2009-2010 Academic Year