Should I tell flu victims to keep away?

January 21, 2000

Q Flu is wreaking havoc with attendance and even when students turn up I wonder whether they can hear my lecture amid the coughing and spluttering. Should I tell flu victims to keep away?

A There is not much point in staying away from classes when flu is doing the rounds because most students and staff are going to meet a victim somewhere on campus, be it in the corridor or the bar. But other medical effects, such as loss of concentration and fatigue, are problems for students.

Then there is what to do if everyone is coughing: offer Night Nurse or something when they come into the lecture theatre or seminar room? I know one Glasgow student whose English lecturer used to throw cough sweets to students.

Officially, the university does not have a policy preventing students from attending classes if they have flu, but, if backed up with a doctor's note, we would take a lenient view with regard to late coursework or resitting exams, etc. It all depends on the severity and whether there are medical grounds for the illness interfering with your academic work.

Similarly, our university has no official policy on providing cover for staff who are ill. Although all incoming students are offered flu and meningitis vaccinations free of charge, when lecturers succumb to flu they normally ring in and ask a colleague to take over their duties. Sometimes this is not possible, it depends on the work: supervising in the laboratory is different from giving a lecture. Mostly, if it's flu, staff would be off only if they were really suffering.

Terence P. Kee

First-level tutor

School of chemistry

University of Leeds

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