As you might know, flu can be spread easily from person to person. While the vast majority of adults recover within 5-7 days, there have been rare hospitalizations, and even deaths, from this infection in otherwise healthy college students.

We are taking steps to help prevent the spread of flu -- both seasonal and H1N1 -- at UCSC. But we also want you to be informed, and take steps to protect yourself.

On the campus's Flu web site we are posting information regularly that includes precautions recommended by public health officers and advice if you experience flu symptoms.

I encourage you to follow these five steps:

. Practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands frequently with soap and water -- especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used when handwashing is not convenient.

. Practice respiratory etiquette by covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow or shoulder, not your hands.

. Know the signs and symptoms of the flu. The flu is different from a typical cold; it usually begins abruptly and is associated with muscle aches, headache, chills and fever. "Fever" is a temperature taken with a thermometer that is equal to or greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius. It is a good idea to obtain a thermometer before you are sick and need it.

Most college students who come down with the H1N1 flu will improve on the 3rd or 4th day with simple self care that includes rest, over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers (ibuprofen or acetaminophen also known as advil, motrin or Tylenol), and fluids. Students should voluntarily isolate in their rooms until they are free of fever for 24 hours (after discontinuing fever-controlling medication). Rarely, otherwise-healthy college students with this infection will develop pneumonia. In severe cases, hospitalization may be needed. This quarter, two UCSC students living off-campus have been hospitalized with pneumonia from probable H1N1 influenza. Nationwide, there have been four deaths among college students attributed to the H1N1 influenza infection.

. Students with a flu-like illness who are feeling worse on the 3rd day of illness should seek medical evaluation. Severe symptoms that warrant medical evaluation include shortness of breath, severe lightheadedness or dizziness, fever lasting more than 3 days or severe vomiting and the inability to hold down liquids. Students who have asthma, diabetes or other conditions that may lower their immunity should seek medical evaluation if they develop a fever, even if their symptoms are not otherwise severe; they may benefit from early treatment with antiviral medicine. It is typical for fever and body aches to resolve by the third day but congestion, sore throat and cough may persist 1-2 weeks. Over-the-counter remedies can be used to control these symptoms as the infection is resolving.

. Please call the UCSC Student Influenza phone advice line (831-459-2591) if you are unsure if you need medical evaluation. Please also check the Student Health Center web site for after-hours information when the health center is closed in the evening and on weekends.

Thank you for your attention to this very important health issue.