Roommates of Students With Influenza-like Illness
If your roommate needs self-isolation because they have an influenza-like-illness (ILI - defined as fever (temperature of 100°F [37.8°C] or greater) and a cough and/or a sore throat in the absence of a KNOWN cause other than influenza), they will need to go home or stay in the dorm room until they no longer have a fever for at least 24 hours without using fever-reducing medications. Pertinent information for non-ill roommates includes:
Plan to stay with friends who are not sick for a few days as long as you are feeling well:
Influenza is easily spread, and 1current CDC guidance recommends that “ill students limit their contact with others and, to the extent possible, maintain a distance of 6 feet from people with whom they share living space. If close contact cannot be avoided, the ill student should be asked to wear a surgical mask during the period of contact.”
Since this will be a significant challenge for most roommates, finding an alternative place to stay is advisable, particularly if you have a condition that puts you at high-risk for complications from influenza. 2
Contact your Commons Office if:
You are having difficulty finding a place to stay with friends.
You have any conditions that would require special housing consideration, including conditions considered to put you at high-risk for complications from influenza. 2
If you need to get things in your room:
Call in advance and ask your roommate to wear a facemask while you quickly retrieve the things you need. If a facemask is not available, ask your roommate to cover their cough or sneeze with a tissue. Avoid face-to-face contact whenever possible.
You may have been exposed:
Sick individuals may start shedding the flu virus 1 day before their symptoms started. This means that roommates may have been exposed unknowingly, but does not mean that roommates will become ill. The best thing to do is to avoid contact with sick individuals, monitor your own health, and start thinking about what you would do if you became ill.
If you become ill:
Even though your roommate is also sick, if you have influenza-like-illness you should self-isolate by either going home if possible or returning to your room.
You can help your roommate:
- Deliver meals
- Drop off any necessary supplies such as medications or fluids
- Call to see how they are doing and if they need anything
Going back to your room once your roommate is out of self-isolation:
Once your roommate no longer has fevers x 24 hours without using fever reducing medications, the likelihood of transmitting flu virus decreases, and according to CDC guidance, self-isolation is no longer necessary.
Many people with influenza illness will continue shedding influenza virus 24 hours after their fevers go away, but at lower levels than during their fever. Shedding of influenza virus can be detected for 10 days or more in some cases. Therefore, people who have had influenza-like illness should continue to practice good respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene and avoid close contact with people they know to be at increased risk of influenza-related complications.
Studies have shown that the influenza virus can survive on environmental surfaces and can infect a person for 2 to 8 hours after being deposited on the surface. Please work with your roommate to clean surfaces in your room with standard household disinfectants before returning. CDC guidance suggests:
- Throw away tissues and other disposable items used by the sick person in the trash. Wash your hands after touching used tissues and similar waste.
- Keep surfaces clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant according to directions on the product label.
- Linens, eating utensils, and dishes belonging to those who are sick do not need to be cleaned separately, but importantly these items should not be shared without washing thoroughly first.
- Wash linens (such as bed sheets and towels) by using household laundry soap and tumble dry on a hot setting. Avoid “hugging” laundry prior to washing it to prevent contaminating yourself. Clean your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub right after handling dirty laundry.
- Eating utensils should be washed either in a dishwasher or by hand with water and soap.
Influenza viruses typically spread from person to person when:
- droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person are propelled through the air and deposited on the mouth or nose of people nearby, or
- when a person touches respiratory droplets on another person or an object and then touches their own mouth or nose before washing their hands.
You are considered at high-risk for complications from influenza if:
you have chronic pulmonary, cardiovascular, hepatic, hematological, neurologic, neuromuscular, or metabolic disorders. This includes students with asthma;
you have immunosuppression (caused by medications or by HIV);
you are pregnant;
you are less than 18 years old and are receiving long-term aspirin therapy and who might be at risk for experiencing Reye syndrome after influenza virus infection.