Tracking the flu
On the myMRU webpage under “Student Resources,” in the upper-right corner there is a window labelled “H1N1 Registration.” This is where all students, staff and faculty who are experiencing flu-like symptoms are being asked to register into Mount Royal’s system.
The registration was initially launched on Oct. 30 as a way of keeping track of the number of people who have had or are currently experiencing flu-like symptoms, explained Jane O’Connor, chair of MRU’s public health response team.
“Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve had over 900 students who have actually signed into the registry to register an illness, and that means they were sick at some point this fall because some of them are going back to the beginning of October,” O’Connor said.
The registration is a two-step process in which the student first completes the registration form, stating information such as their program, contact number and first day of illness. The second step happens when the student is well again, and goes back to the registration form to fill in the last day of their illness.
Although the system is meant to be a way of tracking the illness, professors can access this list in order to see which of their students have registered as sick.
“We’ve suspended the requirement for doctors’ notes during this period because we’re asking people not to overload the health system by going to the doctors,” O’Connor said.
Although professors are able to see which students have reported as ill, O’Connor stressed that it is still the student’s responsibility to contact their professors.
“If the student is missing a class where attendance is required or they’re missing a midterm or a test, they’re responsible for notifying their professor that they will be or have missed that test and work out arrangements with the individual professors as to how they’re going to handle it,” she said.
As an instructor, Samanti Kulatilake, said she has been using the registry over the last few weeks in order to keep track of her students.
Kulatilake, an assistant professor in biological anthropology at Mount Royal, said that she currently has six or seven students registered from the three classes she teaches, and she believes those numbers may increase.
“I’m suspecting that there are some [students exploiting the system] and there could be in the future with people having to struggle with all kinds of deadlines in the last month [of classes],” she said. “This is giving an excuse for students sometimes to not show up, but then there will be the genuine cases who do require the time to recover. It’s difficult to say.”
No matter how the registration is being used by students, O’Connor said that it’s serving its intended purpose for the public health response team, which is to keep an eye on attendance levels.
“It’s just a general surveillance of the number of students and the number of employees across campus who are off, because if our numbers were extremely high then we might have to put contingency measures in place,” O’Connor said.
“We’re not experiencing that, so that is what it’s able to tell me, but if we didn’t have this registry up there, I’d have no way of telling how many people are out.”
As of right now, Mount Royal has approximately 300 students registered into the system that are, or are claiming to be, away with flu-like symptoms. This translates into about two-and-a-half to three per cent of the student body, O’Connor said, adding that these absentee numbers are likely no higher than when the regular seasonal flu is going around.