By: Meaghan Dant
Chattanooga, TN (UTC, CDC, UpToDate)– While flu season approaches, people prepare themselves for the worst. Students and faculty at UTC are gearing up for possible H1N1 outbreaks in hopes that this unwelcomed and sporadic illness will not heavily impact campus.
H1N1, or Swine Flu as it is also known as, is a different strand of influenza that made its way to the United States in April of this year. While H1N1 and regular seasonal flu have some similarities, the World Health Organization declared that a pandemic of Swine Flu was underway which caused a panic all across the U.S.
Businesses and schools everywhere are taking the necessary precautions in order to make their facilities as “flu free” as possible. UTC has followed the steps that many universities are taking by giving students and faculty information to protect themselves from this new disease.
“What people have to understand is how the two flu’s are different,” Dr. Christine Smith, Coordinator of Nurse Practitioner Concentration in UTC’s Nursing Program, said. “The Swine Flu is affecting much younger people than the seasonal flu is. The young people under the age of 25 is who the CDC has targeted to be more affected by the flu compared to others.”
According to the CDC the symptoms of Swine Flu can include cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, chills, fatigue, body aches, headaches, and in some sever cases diarrhea and vomiting. While the two flu’s have different symptoms, they are both highly contagious and are spread the same way.
Both types of influenza are airborne and transmitted from one person to another via sneezing or coughing. In addition to that, H1N1 may also be transmitted by touch. “If someone infected with H1N1 coughed into their hand, touched a surface, then another person came behind them and touched the same surface, the disease free person would no longer be,” Dr. Smith said.
How UTC is Responding:
Though H1N1’s popularity seems to grow by the minute, it is really a cause for panic? Some UTC officials say no. Jocelyn Sanders, Associate Provost for Academic Affairs sees no reason to panic. “Students need to calm down and think logically about the situation and have a rational response to what is going on.”
Sanders said there recently was a meeting which included the deans from the university regarding H1N1. “We decided that we would go along with classes and schedules as normal, and saw, so far, no reason to panic,” Sanders said.
What Students Should Do:
Now, the question on every student’s mind seems to be: what if I contract Swine Flu? “I am extremely worried about getting H1N1,” senior Ashley McKoy said. “I don’t think everyone is taking this seriously and because of that are not taking the necessary precautions.”
UTC has sent out numerous mass e-mails giving students updates and resources on what to do about Swine Flu. “I think UTC has done a decent job warning students about Swine Flu,” junior Stacie Calhoun said. “It’s not like the school is trying to keep it under wraps. Between the e-mails, and posters all over campus, I think the message is clear.”
While UTC is notifying students and faculty on health issues, another card comes into play. How should students and faculty react to students who have come down with Swine Flu.
“The CDC recommends that anyone diagnosed with H1N1 stay in doors away from others,” Dr. Smith said. “Even if this means missing classes or school events.”
Change in Class Policies:
Recently, Dr. Phil Oldham, Provost of Academic Affairs, released an e-mail to all UTC faculty. In the e-mail Dr. Oldham requested that all faculty reevaluate their attendance policies so to not encourage sick students to come to class. In addition, he asked the teachers to eliminate the requirement that student’s bring in a doctor’s note if they have fallen ill.
While recommendations are made, the school cannot force teachers to change attendance and make-up work policy, Sanders said. “We can hope that teachers will work around sick student’s conditions because no one wants an ill student wandering around campus, but the faculty does things on their own terms.”
Who is at Risk:
While all students are at risk, students in such groups as athletics, fraternities, and sororities are at an even higher risk, according to Dr. Smith. “The main thing to do to prevent this is stay away from large crowds, and those groups seem to be surrounded by large crowds more than others.”
What To Do:
With only 22 cases of confirmed H1N1 on campus, the cause for concern is low. If students wish to avoid H1N1 at all costs all they need do is take the necessary precautions. “Washing your hands with warm soap and water, having anti-bacterial products handy, and consulting a doctor immediately if you feel ill are simple things you can do to protect yourselves and others,” Dr. Smith said.
The H1N1 vaccine will be available to all students for no charge in mid-October at the campus health center. Until then, everyone is encouraged to stay alert and stay healthy.