H1N1 virus strikes college campuses

By Megan Kutulis
September 3, 2009

Shannon Keough

Over the years, headlines have boasted national concern for diseases like avian flu, Mad Cow disease and West Nile virus. The most recent in this series of animal-related outbreaks is the H1N1 virus, more commonly known as the swine flu.

Swine flu is a respiratory disease that regularly occurs in pigs. Although the virus typically does not affect humans, the symptoms are much like that of the regular influenza virus and are spread the same way, through person-to-person contact and infected surfaces.

Recently, outbreaks seem to be popping up at colleges and universities across the nation, including Cabrini. As of Monday, Aug. 31, Health Services had one confirmed case of the H1N1 virus and seen five students who presented with flu-like symptoms.

“Since our ability to isolate ill individuals on campus is extremely limited, ill students are told to go home until they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medicine,” said Ms. Susan Fitzgerald, Cabrini’s nurse.

Although Health Services has taken the necessary precautions to contain the spread of virus, some students remain skeptical.

“I think Cabrini should definitely be taking more steps to make sure everyone else is unaffected. There should be hand sanitizer dispensers around campus or something, especially because it’s become such an epidemic on college campuses,” Corinne Grasso, senior English major said.

In order to accommodate the wishes of Grasso and other students, Health Services has begun to publish tips for staying healthy in campus publications.

“Health Services is educating the community on the prevention methods recommended by the Center for Disease Control. We have posted information on our health page, put up hand washing instructions on bathroom mirrors and used Toilet Talk to discuss H1N1 and its symptoms and prevention methods,” Fitzgerald said.

Grasso also highlights a point that many students are looking for answers to. Why are college campuses so prone to the spread of the H1N1 virus? According to Health Services, college students are at high risk for contracting the disease, due in large part to poor hygiene. By sharing bathroom space, food and even cups at parties, college students are putting themselves in jeopardy.

Besides following preventative measures, students are warned to look for symptoms, including fever, cough, sore throat and body aches. The virus is transferred via person-to-person contact, although it has rarely been sustained beyond three people. Students are also urged to avoid contact with sick individuals, cover their mouths or noses when coughing or sneezing and avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth.

For longtime prevention, a vaccine is in the works.

“The H1N1 vaccine is still undergoing testing for safety and efficacy. There will most likely be a limited supply and it will be given first to those at high risk for complications and health care workers,” Fitzgerald said.

Although the vaccine would not be primarily for students, some don’t seem to be worried.

“I probably wouldn’t get the vaccine even if it was at Cabrini. I don’t like to take vaccines the first time it’s released because you never know its side effects,” Dana Sciamarelli, junior history major, said.

For more information on the swine flu, students can visit the Health Center or the CDC’s Web site.

Megan Kutulis

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