College students are being widely diagnosed with the H1N1 virus all across the country, and experts say its spread on college campuses will continue as the annual flu season begins this fall.
H1N1 – also widely known as the Swine Flu — is a new influenza virus that causes mild to severe illness in people, affecting mostly those under 50 years old. Those who are most susceptible to the worst effects of the virus include pregnant women, young children, and those who have asthma, diabetes, or heart disease.
According to Alberta Hickman, Director of Health Services, college students are especially susceptible to H1N1 because of the close living situations. “Your living style could increase your risk of getting it…like dormitories…because you have large amounts of people in an enclosed space,” she explained.
Unfortunately, she said, H1N1 shares many symptoms with other illnesses, such as the common cold and influenza, and instead can be easily mistaken for them.
According to Karen Mumbert, Assistant Director of the Health Center, symptoms include “sudden onset of a fever, a sore throat, body aches, a cough…you can have vomiting and diarrhea; some do, some don’t, [but] the most tell-tale sign is that it’s a sudden onset.” Cases in which severe illness and death result do occur, but they are rare, she said. Mumbert advises that if a student begins to feel ill, “they should check with their physicians and check in with their instructors by email. Mostly, people will self-isolate.”
H1N1 is spread through coughing, sneezing and direct human-to-human contact. Mumbert added that H1N1 is spread by droplets of virus-laden saliva. “That means sneezing, coughing, anything you spew into the air,” she said. “Six feet is the magic number. If closer, you’re under droplet attack.” Mumbert advised students to sneeze or cough into their arms to avoid spreading the virus. She also said that people can spread H1N1 through close personal contact, like kissing.
The Health Center staff recommends washing hands or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer after using the bathroom or right before a meal. “It’s more important than ever for everyone to be practicing good hygiene,” explained Hickman.
First-year Andrew Reighart said that he is not concerned by all of the H1N1 hype. “No, I’m not worried,” he said. “I feel like it [H1N1] is pretty uncommon right now. If things get worse, then I might start taking more precautions.”
Students are advised to go to the Health Center if they begin to develop swine flu symptoms or suspect that they are ill. Students should not attend class while they have the virus, and are advised to stay self-isolated until 24 hours after their last sign of a fever.
More information about the H1N1 virus is available on the College Web site and at http://www.cdc.gov/H1N1FLU/.
Vaccinations for the seasonal flu—not H1N1—will be offered on October 1st by Maxim Health Systems for $27. Checks and cash will be accepted.