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Swine and seasonal flu top campus health concerns

Flu season 2009 is already underway, but unlike recent years, this one is going to be tough.

With the H1N1 (swine) flu already spreading throughout the country, and fears about it continuing to wage on, it is no surprise that many fear that the 2009 flu season could be one of the worst.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of swine flu cases continues to remain elevated from week to week. Now that the seasonal flu will be picking up too, many more people are expected to become ill.

On October 1, in the weekly address from Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said that, “significant flu activity [exists] in virtually all states.”

“Most states do have quite a lot of disease right now, and that’s unusual for this time of year,” she said.

Dr. Schuchat also said that in some of the fatal cases of H1N1, a pneumonic bacteria was found to be present in cells, offering support that deaths from swine flu have been due to other factors, as well.

On October 2, the WHO reported that 340,000 cases of H1N1 were confirmed worldwide. Of those cases, 4100 deaths have been reported.

The WHO stresses, however, that countries, including the United States, have stopped reporting cases that were not severe. There, the WHO believes that the number of actual cases of H1N1 are substantially higher than the reported count.

Here at Millersville University, the feelings about the flu are mixed. The campus remains worried about the possibility of the swine flu spreading amongst the student body, much like it has at other schools across the nation.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding the 2009 flu season, Health Services has put together a detailed document of procedures to follow if a mass breakout of the flu should occur. The content of the report is based on guidelines that the WHO and the CDC have posted on their websites.

In addition, Health Services has teamed up with Millersville University’s Housing Department for any situations that may arise in any of the nine residence halls on campus.

Miniature flu kits have been put together for any resident who falls ill with flu-like symptoms. Currently, the infirmary is not diagnosing any students with the swine flu specifically; everyone is being diagnosed as influenza-A because the two strains of the virus are similar.

In addition to the flu kits, Health Services has also put together meal kits that can be delivered to students living in residence halls. This further prevents the ill students from needing to exit his or her dorm room to eat.

Health Services is also providing an excuse note so that all teachers are aware of the student’s condition.

The swine flu continues to worry many on campus, including the resident assistants who oversee 30-40 people living in a dorm. Kylie Wurster, a resident assistant in Harbold Hall, said that, “Concerns with the flu would not be as necessary if people living in a hall would have better hygiene.”

“If everyone would wash their hands a couple times a day, we wouldn’t need to be worried about this,” Wurster said. “And the problem, too, is that it seems like the flu, in general, could be pretty nasty this fall.”

“We can only continue to stress the importance of personal hygiene during this flu season.”

Regardless, if a student on campus appears to be catching the flu, the only way to find out for sure is by stopping at the infirmary to get tested.

It is important to note that these different ways of responding to a potential H1N1-infected person are coming directly from Health Services. According to a member of the Housing Department, there is no specific protocol that individual residence halls would follow if a student began showing flu-like symptoms other than to pass out the kits.

Students were told by e-mail that the Millersville campus had eight confirmed cases of influenza A. That e-mail was sent on Wednesday, September 23. Attempts by The Snapper to contact Health Services this past week were unsuccessful. Furthermore, no updates have been posted on the Health Services webpage on Millersville University’s website.

According to Millersville University’s Health Services webpage, the school cannot confirm if a student who has the flu has the H1N1 strain or the seasonal influenza A.

This, according to the site, is because the Lancaster County Health Department is no longer testing for the H1N1 strain. Millersville University can only assume that a person has the swine flu. As a result, all cases are now being treated simply as having Influenza-A.