By: Dani-Elle Dubé

Student safety and health education are the priorities for Algonquin in its efforts to fight against one of the worst flu seasons Ottawa has experienced in recent years.

Every week over 33,500 students and 3,322 staff members walk through the Woodroffe, Perth and Pembroke campus doors. With viral season at its height in January, the college has taken additional measures in keeping students healthy.

“This is a really big community,” explained Cathy Trueman, registered nurse at Algonquin’s Health Services. “We always see a lot of patients this time of year with colds and flues and I think we have seen an increase in actual flu cases just like the rest of the city.”

As part of the college’s preventative efforts, Health Services will continue to supply the flu shot to students. The number of flu shots given this season at the campus clinic dropped to 800 from 1,700 last year.

However, the college hosted a four-day flu clinic in November where students in Algonquin’s nursing program gave 1034 additional flu shots.

“This year’s flu shot is a perfect match to the current circulating flu,” said Trueman. “So if anyone is thinking if they should get the shot or not, just get it. The more people that get it, the less people will get the flu.”

The Students’ Association, Health Services, Physical Resources and Ottawa Public Health have come together in a campaign to educate students in proper hand cleaning. Blue and grey signs that demonstrate proper hand washing techniques, as well as hand sanitizing stations, are found on bathroom walls and in campus hallways.

“We love to see when students are taking part in hand washing,” said SA director, Natalie Dixon. “We are big advocates in (hand washing) and making sure students are taking care of themselves and protecting themselves.”

The college’s Physical Resources department has taken action by changing its cleaning practices and products under the standards of the Association of Physical Plant Administrations Level 2.5., meaning that the department does not allow more than a two-day accumulation of dirt

Having recently recovered from the flu, director of Physical Resources, John Tattersall, recognized the importance of proper sanitation this viral season.

“Physical Resources will always work with our health administration and our health advisers,” said Tattersall. “If (they) come to us saying we need to add (to our practices) then we’ll get the funds and the right crews to achieve those standards.”

Physical Plant often conducts audits and inspections to ensure that washrooms and classrooms are clean and sanitized as most washrooms are cleaned at least five times a day.

When cleaning surfaces, doorknobs and railings, the Physical Resources team had to make a few changes.

“I have instructed both our staff and the contract cleaners to switch from their cleaning products to mild disinfecting products,” said Robert Blondin, supervisor of the caretaking and grounds services team. “But there are so many students here that when you wipe (surfaces), the next student will come around with the flu or the cold (and touch the same surface).”

Because of the frequent touching and contaminating of surfaces, the caretaking staff is only able to wipe them once a day. That is why health promotions educator, Erika Dole, reinforces the importance of frequent hand washing and consideration for others.

“Wash your hands because you don’t realize how many times you touch your face during the day,” advises Dole. “And if you’re feeling sick and you can stay home and out of the college, that is always a good thing. It stops the spread of the flu and other germs.”