Influenza Checklist for Chapter Houses
The close-knit nature of sorority life can foster strong bonds among members, but it also creates an environment where contagious illnesses, like the flu and Covid-19, can easily spread, especially during the winter months. To maintain a healthy and thriving community, it’s crucial for sorority chapter houses to implement preventive measures.
The risk for infection can be reduced through a combination of actions. No single action provides complete protection, but a combined approach can help decrease the likelihood of transmission. To aid in pandemic contingency planning, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has suggested the following steps that every employer can take to reduce the risk of exposure to pandemic influenza in their workplace, which also applies to our chapter facilities:
- People who are sick with an influenza-like illness (ILI) (fever plus at least cough or sore throat and possibly other symptoms like runny nose, body aches, headaches, chills, fatigue, vomiting, and diarrhea) should stay home or in their rooms and keep away from others as much as possible, including avoiding travel, for at least 24 hours after fever is gone. (Fever should be gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.)
- Encourage employees and members to wash their hands frequently with soap and water or with hand sanitizer if there is no soap or water available. Also, encourage employees and members to avoid touching their noses, mouths, and eyes.
- Encourage employees and residents to cover their coughs and sneezes with a tissue, or to cough and sneeze into their upper sleeves if tissues are not available. Employees and members should wash their hands or use a hand sanitizer after they cough, sneeze, or blow their noses.
- Employees should avoid close contact with their coworkers and residents. They should avoid shaking hands and always wash their hands after contact with others. Even if employees wear gloves, they should wash their hands upon removal of the gloves incase their hand(s) became contaminated during the removal process.
- Provide extra tissues and trash receptacles and a place to wash or disinfect hands for all guests, employees, and residents.
- Keep work surfaces, desks, computers, and other frequently touched surfaces clean. Use only disinfectants registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and follow all directions and safety precautions indicated on the label.
- Discourage employees and members from using other people’s phones, desks, laptops, or other tools and equipment.
- Minimize situations, such as in a meeting, where groups of people are crowded together. Use e-mail, phones, and text messages to communicate with each other. When meetings are necessary, avoid close contact by keeping a separation of at least 6 ft, where possible, and assure that there is proper ventilation in the meeting room.
- Reduce or eliminate unnecessary social interactions, which can be very effective in controlling the spread of infectious diseases. Reconsider all situations that permit or require employees, members, and visitors (including family members) to enter the facility. Chapters may want to consider restricting/eliminating guest visitation options during an influenza pandemic.
- Promote healthy lifestyles, including vaccination for seasonal flu and Covid, good nutrition, exercise, and smoking cessation. A person’s overall health impacts their body’s immune system and can affect their ability to fight off, or recover from, an infectious disease.
- Encourage Rest and Self-Care: Emphasize the importance of self-care during the flu season. Encourage employees and members to prioritize sufficient sleep, maintain a balanced diet, and stay hydrated to boost their immune systems.
- Modify Social Events: Temporarily modify or limit social events that involve close contact during flu outbreaks. Consider virtual meetings or events as alternatives to prevent the rapid spread of the virus.
- Communication Strategy: Develop a clear and transparent communication strategy. Keep members informed about any flu cases within the chapter house while respecting privacy. Encourage an open dialogue to ensure that everyone feels comfortable reporting symptoms.
- Emergency Preparedness: Have an emergency plan in place in case of a flu outbreak. This should include protocols for seeking medical attention, communication channels, and strategies for supporting affected members.
Preventing virus outbreaks in a sorority chapter house requires a collaborative effort and a commitment to creating a healthy living environment. By implementing these proactive measures, sorority members can enjoy a vibrant and supportive community while minimizing the risk of contagious illnesses. Remember, the key is early education, open communication, and a collective dedication to the well-being of all members and employees.
More detailed planning information is available from OSHA in Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic (OSHA 3327-02N). Information is also available from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) at PandemicFlu.Gov. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) released a planning guide for small businesses.