Hundreds of students living in close quarters in dorms is a recipe for spreading germs, so it's no wonder colleges around the United States are being vigilant about the HINI virus.

Hundreds of students living in close quarters in dorms is a recipe for spreading germs, so it's no wonder colleges around the United States are being vigilant about the HINI virus.

Although no major flu outbreaks have occurred at Central Ohio colleges, schools have implemented prevention efforts and made plans in case the virus rears its head.

Since Capital University began classes Aug. 31, several students have left campus after experiencing flu-like symptoms.

"It's tough to really figure out if it is confirmed or suspected," said Nichole Johnson, director of media relations at Capital. "We are encouraging students and employees to go home if they feel sick or they have a fever. They should leave campus and stay home until they are fever-free."

Otterbein College has seen a few cases of students with flu-like symptoms, but officials there, too, have found it difficult to distinguish between the H1N1 virus and the typical influenza.

"H1N1 has proven to be very similar to seasonal flu because health officials are no longer routinely testing for the strain," said Robert Gatti, vice president for student affairs at Otterbein. "It's now being referred to as Influenza Like Illness. We've had a half-dozen students who present themselves with ILI, and we have asked them to self-isolate."

If a large outbreak were to occur, campuses have plans for keeping their students and faculty safe from the virus. Typical plans include providing special housing arrangements for students who are sick and canceling classes if needed.

At Ohio State, a new website, flu.osu.edu, debuted on Sept. 14 as a place to share the university's H1N1 plans.

"We look forward to using that website as our main focus for communicating with the campus community," said Dr. Roger Miller, a preventative medicine physician at OSU. "We have been sharing prevention and 'steps to take if ill' messages in many ways across campus, including active outreach to students and families."

Rachael Byrd, a third-year nursing student at Otterbein, said she and her classmates have been encouraged to get flu shots before heading into hospitals for classes and clinicals.

"It's good to get a vaccine, because the regular flu season hasn't even started yet," Byrd said.

To prevent flu and other illnesses, make sure to follow the tips below. If you feel sick, visit the student health center at your college or your regular doctor.

H1N1 Prevention Tips

Wash hands frequently using soap and water

Sneeze and cough into the bend of your arm

Properly dispose of tissues after use

Avoid contact with those who are sick

Be aware of surfaces that others have touched

Visit a doctor if flu-like symptoms occur

Heather Weekley is a junior at Otterbein College majoring in Broadcasting.

Click to EasyColumbus.com for the everything off campus guide to student zones, discounts and things to do.