Frequently Asked Questions for employees during flu season

September 30, 2009

While it is hoped that all University employees remain healthy during this flu season, there is a possibility that some may become ill with either the seasonal flu or H1N1. In an effort to answer ongoing queries related to the flu and possible missed work time, the following Frequently Asked Questions should provide responses that give University employees guidance on what to do if they or a loved one contract the flu. 

FAQ about H1N1 and seasonal flu

Q. What should I do to avoid the flu?

A. In order to minimize your and your family’s exposure, take advantage of the seasonal flu vaccine provided free of charge through the Penn State Office of Human Resources Health Matters program. Additional information, including registration instructions, can be found at Other everyday actions you can take to prevent the flu are:

* Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
* Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners also are effective.
* Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
* Stay home if you get sick. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them. 

Q: If I am out of work with flu-like symptoms, am I required to provide health care provider certification?

A: No. A physician's note is not required for employees reporting flu-like symptoms. 

Q: If I am healthy do I have to come to work? 

A: Yes. The University will be open for business, unless announced otherwise. If you would prefer to stay home with an ill family member, then check with your supervisor. If you are needed to perform vital functions that are necessary to continue normal operations of the University, you may need to find alternate care for your ill family member and report to work. 

Q: What happens if I run out of sick time because of having the flu?

A: Employees in staff or technical service positions who have expended all accumulated paid-time off will be permitted to use future sick and vacation hours prior to accrual. Normally, this time would be accounted for by the end of the current fiscal year.

Q: What if I am caring for ill family members and exhaust my annual sick family hours?

A: Employees will be permitted to use as many sick family days as necessary. Sick family time is charged to an employee's sick leave accumulation. In the event sick time is expended, employees should use accumulated vacation time. In the event all paid time off is expended, please refer to the previous question and answer for a description of how future earnings may be used and are accounted for.

Q: I am showing some flu symptoms, but I feel well enough to work. Should I come to work?

A: The first step is to check with your health care provider. He or she will provide guidance on whether you should stay home.

Q: How much time should a person spend away from others if they have flu-like symptoms?

A: The CDC recommends that people with influenza-like illness remain at home until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever (100°F [37.8°C]), or signs of a fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.

Q: If I get the H1N1 vaccine, do I still need a seasonal flu vaccine?

A: Yes. It is possible to contract both the seasonal flu and H1N1 flu since exposure to one does not give immunity to the other.

Q: I am planning to travel abroad this fall. Will H1N1 be a problem in the country I will be visiting?

A: University offices are tracking risk in various countries. Up-to-date information is available from the World Health Organization online.

For more information on H1N1, guidelines for supervisors and recommendations for telecommuting, you may wish to consult the Aug. 10 letter from President Spanier, which can be found here:

The Office of Human Resources also has a "A Frequently Asked Questions" webpage, which is regularly updated at

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Last Updated October 01, 2009