H1N1 not believed to be a threat

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November 3, 2009

3:03 AM

Swine flu has slowly spread to the students, faculty and staff of the College of William and Mary, but the
Student Health Center does not foresee the H1N1 virus becoming an issue.

Vice President for Administration Anna B. Martin sent out an e-mail Oct. 30 informing students and faculty about the prevalence of swine flu. It included information about services the health center provides, such as emergency nutrition packs available to students who have the virus.

“The most important thing is practicing good, safe hygiene, which includes not sharing drinks or utensils, good hand washing, using hand sanitizer, and having good nutrition,” Virginia Wells, medical director of the health center and infectious disease specialist, said. “We’ve handed out at least 2,000 kits, complete with tissues, masks and hand sanitizer. We’re trying to meet the needs of growing numbers of students, working through lunches, and seeing everyone who called.”

According to Martin, since Sept. 1 there have been about 530 reported cases of the virus. However, only about 40-50 cases have been active at any one time.

“At this point, it’s been less than half [of a percent] of the student population, which is not significant,” Wells said. “We’re doing much better with swine flu than other universities.”

When a student with flu-like symptoms comes to the health center, Wells says that her staff tests students for the seasonal flu because of a lack of access to the H1N1 test.

“We’re doing a rapid influenza test that we use for seasonal flu because we don’t have access to the TCR test used to test for swine flu. Right now, that’s only available in hospitals and labs,” Wells said. “So, the H1N1 diagnosis is more of a clinical diagnosis presumed to be H1N1, based on data from CDC and state and local health departments. As far as we know, there’s no seasonal flu that’s hit yet.”

Wells recommends that students abstain from going to class and remain in one location if they are diagnosed with the H1N1 virus by a health service.

“Following recommendations from the CDC, students with swine flu should stay in their rooms but do not need to be quarantined,” Wells said. “Their roommates should stay at least six feet away. It’s spread just like all other respiratory [illnesses] — through coughing and sneezing.”

The vaccine for the virus has not yet been made available to students and staff, and Wells said she does not know an exact date when it will become available.

“We’re at the mercy of the state health department, but we’re hoping that it will become available to us in the next couple of weeks,” Wells said. “As soon as it comes, we will send notices via multimedia. We’ll hold mass vaccine clinics and try to get everyone vaccinated, which is free for everyone.”

All students will be able to be tested, but some will be eligible for vaccination sooner than others.

“When the first shipment comes, it will likely be limited, and we’ll try to target compromised students first,” Wells said. “This includes immune-compromised illnesses.”

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