Swine flu '09: Flu bug creeps on campus

Swine Flu on campus

As of Friday, Oct. 23, health authorities have confirmed nine cases of swine flu at Mercyhurst College.

This number, however, does not necessarily include all of the students infected with the H1N1 virus on campus.

“There have been anecdotal reports of other students on campus having flu-like symptoms,” Vice President of Student Life Dr. Gerry Tobin said.

These students experiencing flu-like symptoms are not documented through the health center, so they are not counted in the confirmed cases of H1N1 reported on campus.

Of the nine students who have been confirmed as infected with swine flu, eight visited the Health Center in the past week.

According to Director of the Cohen Health Center Christine Dimperio, two or three of these students were “swabbed and cultured” to determine they had swine flu. The remaining cases were determined based off of the confirmed cases and the symptoms these students showed. The students who were not tested are said to have ‘Influenza-like Illnesses.’

Symptoms of the swine flu are similar to those of the seasonal flu. People often have body aches, a temperature between 100 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit and a dry cough. Unlike the seasonal flu, however, students may also experience nausea and diarrhea, Dimperio said.

Since swine flu is officially on the Mercyhurst campus, the staff at the Health Center will assume that students who have these symptoms are infected with the swine flu, Dimperio said.

Even though swine flu is usually not very serious and is often short-lived in those infected, the H1N1 virus has “the potential to do harm,” Dimperio said. “With this flu, pneumonia is prevalent.”

Dimperio advises those who experience chest pain or have difficulty breathing to go to the emergency room immediately.

“The problem with this H1N1 is because of your ages, you have no immunity to it,” Dimperio said. “You’re getting your immunity the hard way.”

Swine flu vaccinations

The Erie Center on Health and Aging will supply the swine flu vaccine to Mercyhurst. Dimperio is waiting to hear when the vaccine will come in, but she said she hopes it will be before Thanksgiving break.

Originally, the college was going to receive vaccine as early as October, but “production has been a little slower than anticipated,” Dimperio said.

Swine flu vaccinations will be given as a mass immunization on campus. They will be free and given only to students.

“I really think students should seriously think about taking the vaccine,” Dimperio said.

Not all students are as concerned about swine flu as the staff and faculty are.

“I don’t think there’s a huge reason to worry about it,” freshman Matt Teleha said.

Freshman Joe Pudlick agreed with Teleha. “I’m not worried about it,” Pudlick said.

Pudlick plans to protect himself from the virus. “I’m definitely going to get vaccinated,” Pudlick said.

Swine flu prevention

To spread the word about H1N1 vaccinations and ways to prevent the virus, Sportsmedicine instructor Tim Harvey and the students of his Principles of Health Promotion class “decided to work as a group to educate the Mercyhurst community,” Harvey said.

As a class, they posted fliers around campus, held hand washing demonstrations, made public service announcements at sporting events and posted information on Facebook.

According to Harvey, the biggest way to prevent spreading swine flu is hand washing.

The hand washing demonstrations show students that they are missing areas when they wash their hands. Students rub cream on their hands, wash it off and then hold their hands under a black light. Residue from the cream always shows up, Harvey said.

The next hand washing demonstration will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 3 in Baldwin Hall from 2 to 4 p.m.

Harvey also advocates wiping down counters and door knobs in apartments and dorm rooms several times a day because “the virus can last outside the body for eight hours,” Harvey said.