By Tom Dalton
---- — Salem State University students were being welcomed back to campus for the start of the second semester with a cautionary note: Wash your hands.
Like colleges around New England and around the country, Salem State is taking precautions to make sure it is prepared for the worst influenza outbreak in years.
“We hope you have enjoyed a nice break and are ready to come back and resume your studies,” Kimberly Daly, associate director of counseling and health services, wrote in a Jan. 10 letter to students and families. “Given the current high level of influenza activity in our area, we want to share with you and your family some helpful information before you return and make some suggestions for remaining healthy.”
Along with the health hints came a warning.
“University policy states that any student identified as having a flu-like illness will be asked to leave campus and delay their return until they have been fever-free ... for 24 hours,” Daly wrote.
Like other North Shore colleges, Salem State offers flu shots to students. This week, it also posted signs in several languages encouraging students to wash their hands. It has about 400 international students from 70 countries, an official said.
More than 2,000 students live on campus at Salem State, while the school continues to draw a number of commuting students from Gloucester, Cape Ann’s towns and elsewhere.
“I guess the good news is that with the (flu) scare a couple of years ago and then bird flu, we’ve had a pandemic plan in place for years,” said Karen Cady, a university spokeswoman. “Obviously, it needs (constant) updating because the situations change, but we do feel that we are as prepared as we can possibly be.”
Beyond area campuses, the flu outbreak had led to both Addison Gilbert and Beverly hospitals being essentially filled to capacity as of last weekend, while the city of Gloucester’s Health Department has scheduled three more free flu vaccination clinics, all in the Cafe at Addison Gilbert Hospital — Friday from 9 to 11 a.m., and on Wednesday from 9 to 11 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m.
Other North Shore colleges are also taking precautions against the flu as well, but their students aren’t back yet from winter break.
Gordon College in Wenham starts today, North Shore Community College resumes classes next week and Endicott College resumes classes Jan. 28, at its main campus in Beverly and at its new harborside Gloucester campus at 33 Commercial St.
Tom Dalton can be reached at email@example.com.