Niagara University prepares for the swine flu
The novel H1N1 influenza - formerly known as the swine flu - which was first reported around April of this year, is still a central topic of discussion. With colleges and other academic years beginning, campuses are paying close attention to student wellness. Washington State University, for example, had at least 2,000 students showing symptoms within the first week of the semester (New York Times).
The novel H1N1 virus is a strand of the influenza virus that has not been seen in humans before. Initially found in pigs (hence the origin of the name), the H1N1 still possesses flu-like symptoms and is still contagious via person-to-person contact. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, "each year in the United States, on average, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized and 36,000 people die from seasonal flu complications." The CDC warns that the H1N1 "may cause more illnesses or more severe illnesses than usual." One Niagara student, who wished to remain anonymous, claims that she caught the H1N1. "I was exhausted all the time. I thought it was allergies but it was ten times worse. I couldn't breathe!" While she was not officially diagnosed, those around her were leading her to believe that it was in fact H1N1 influenza. She did make a full recovery before returning to campus.
The return of students from all over the country pose the risk of more infection; Niagara University is doing all it can to help educate people about how to have a safe and healthy semester. Lori Soos, RN, BSN, and director of Health Services on campus, reassures that "the University has taken it (flu-like illnesses) seriously and has prepared well." Since students up to the age of 24 are considered high risk carriers, the University has taken on an educational poster campaign.
The posters, seen all over campus, promote a more sanitary lifestyle. Students, for example, are urged to cover their mouth and nose if they cough or sneeze, and to avoid spreading possible infections by touching their faces after. Furthermore, students should wash their hands frequently. Some may notice that more hand sanitizing stations have been added to high-traffic areas (including Clet dining, Lower Level Gallagher, and the library). In addition to the poster campaign, Health Services have been keeping up to date with the Niagara County Health Department.
So what should students be on the lookout for? The H1N1 virus, as previously mentioned, has the same flu-like symptoms as the seasonal flu. These include a fever above 100°F, chills, muscle aches, cough, runny nose and fatigue. If students possess these symptoms, Health Services ask that the student informs their RA. All RAs and CAs have been properly informed as to how to handle flu-like illnesses. Lori Soos mentioned that they have a reporting system in place to help Health Services keep track of possible cases. Additionally, students should call Health Services, as opposed to dropping in. Soos explains that the main objective is to keep healthy students from possible infections. For this reason, two waiting rooms are in place. Those who experience flu-like symptoms are asked to isolated themselves "until they are fever-free for 24 hours without the aid of fever reducing medication." By doing so, the student is helping to control any contagious virus.
Students have a plethora of available information thanks to Niagara University's educational approach. However, some students are still skeptical of the "influenza scare." Frank Laurri, a senior, thinks the whole thing has been blown out of proportion. Taking a scientific approach, Laurri states, "It does not have the essential amino acids that the 1931 flu had. It is not more deadly than any regular flu." Graduate student Miroslaw Stanvszek also does not express fear or anxiety. "I am not worried at all. As long as there is no panic around campus, I will be regularly attending classes."
Although some students seem to act nonchalantly about the hype of H1N1, all can probably agree that the flu (seasonal or other) is no fun. Take the advice of the university, and have a healthy semester by taking precautionary steps.
Health Services will be offering a flu vaccination Oct. 29 from 3-6 p.m. in LLGC.