H1N1 identified on Northern’s campus

Lucy Hough

The presence of H1N1 was confirmed on NMU’s campus earlier this week.

An e-mail was sent to students on Monday, Sept. 21 by Thomas Schacht, director of the Vielmetti Health Center, informing students of the one confirmed case of H1N1, or swine flu, and many other probable cases. The e-mail provided students with information about what they can do to avoid contracting H1N1 and self-care measures if they have it.

“I would say it’s wise to take precautions . who wants to get sick and lose a week of school and feel bad?” Schacht said. “I would view it as, don’t get infected because you won’t want this, but it’s not likely to be a serious health concern.”

Schacht said that it’s best for students to be conscious of it’s presence and be sure to take the appropriate measures to avoid contracting it, like washing hands and avoiding contact with people who might be sick.

Symptoms of H1N1 include fever, chills, sore throat, body ache, headache, and it often affects young people quickly. According to Schacht, H1N1 is also likely to cause gastrointestinal trouble including throwing up once or twice or feeling queasy.

Schacht said that ordinarily healthy students do not necessarily need to see a doctor because most of the symptoms can be ridden out on their own.

“If I see them, I’m usually going to tell them to carry on, keep doing what they’re doing, call me if they get worse,” Schacht said. “It may not be a productive visit for them.”

There are certain high-risk groups that need to be more careful than others. Those groups include pregnant women, asthmatics and people who have chronic diseases. These people who get sick and don’t find their symptoms lessening in a couple of days should not hesitate to see their doctor.

A vaccination will be available to students within the next couple of months, and Schacht said that this will not be too late for many students as the H1N1 virus is likely to stick around for a while. He said that he is at the mercy of Marquette County Health Department as to when the vaccine will be available.

“It does look like it may be a little bit of a race between the first occurrence here and the availability of the vaccine,” Schacht said.

Jill Fries, the emergency preparedness coordinator for the Marquette County Health Department, said that the date when the vaccination will be available has changed from mid-September to the end of December, so it’s hard to say exactly when it will happen.

“It’s a moving target, has been moving since the beginning of August,” she said.

Fries said that when the vaccine becomes available, they will first get it to pregnant women and babies. After the higher priority groups are assessed, then they will put together a mass immunization clinic at the Superior Dome for students. The vaccine will be free for students and available in large quantities.

She said that in the meantime, students who do contract swine flu, should keep a 6-foot radius from others if they must interact with other people.

“If they feel that they absolutely have to go to class, then they need to make certain to give themselves a wide amount of room so that they don’t transmit it to other people,” Fries said.

The rule of isolation is something that Housing and Residence Life has taken into consideration for its policies as well. Isolation rooms have been prepared in the residence halls in case Schacht decides that a student would be better off away from others more permanently, according to Carl Holm, director of Housing and Residence Life.

For other students who are experiencing H1N1 symptoms, isolation is still strongly suggested by the Health Department. They encourage students to remain in their rooms and strongly reconsider going to class. Arrangements can also be made to have food delivered to their rooms. Those interested in volunteering or in need of this service should speak to their Resident Advisor.

“Students who get sick can certainly talk to us, and we can help them work out the things they need to get done,” Holm said.

Pamphlets for students with swine flu and for those who are living with sick roommates are available at all front desks in the residence halls and in the Woodland Apartments. Also, extra surface cleaning has been put into place, since flu viruses are known to last on hard surfaces for eight hours.

“It may sound rather trivial, but I think we’re probably cleaning those surfaces eight times a day if not more,” Holm said.

Holm encouraged all students to visit the Health Center Web site at webb.nmu.edu/HealthCenter/ for more information.